On Golden Pond...
Of Marmalade and Puddings
Vignette: Late 1960s. Two very naïve twenty-one-year-olds from New Zealand, staying with her aunties in California. A beaming aunty sits us down to breakfast, in the strange Californian kitchen with the dinky frilled curtains drawn over the windows and the lights on, ignoring the beautiful mild California December morning out there. We goggle at what’s proudly presented to us: “Danish,” never heard of them, they look like some sort of sweet sticky cakes. Mum would have fits at the idea of eating sweet cakes for breakfast. And...
“We thought you might like grapefruit this morning!” beams the aunty.
Gulp. Delicate pink-tinted skins, the fruit cut open to display beautiful glossy pink segments, centred by a preserved cherry!
They were the “ruby” grapefruit favoured in America, of course, but I’d never even heard of them. Pink grapefruit? And it tasted so mild!
Hair On Your Chest
Nah, those aren’t grapefruit! New Zealand grapefruit are deep yellow as to the outside and dark yellow as to the flesh and they’re lusty, tangy, juicy things that hit you with a hammer, POW! ...Whew! Guaranteed to put hair on the smoothest chest. They make wonderful marmalade; three decent-sized ones are enough for pots and pots of marmalade, so much that you need a preserving pan to cook it in.
David Burton writes in Delectable Fruits Cookery for New Zealanders (1985):
“Sir George Grey brought the grapefruit to New Zealand, establishing on Kawau Island the forerunner of the New Zealand grapefruit which can be grown in conditions colder than those normally required. It is thought that Grey’s plant was either a pomelo, a sour orange hybrid, or a hybrid between the sour orange and the mandarin. Since 1981 these have been sold as ‘goldfruit’.”
Whatever. Why so many New Zealanders need to authenticate stuff with reference to Sir G.G. is beyond me. Maybe he brought them. It’s hard to imagine a posh Englishman bothering about a strange variety of citrus, or any citrus, actually: he came from a land where lemons need to be strawed up and kept in your glasshouse all winter to have even a chance of surviving.
Burton’s best effort with the EnZed grapefruit is the traditional appetiser, a grilled half-grapefruit, sprinkled with rum and sugar or maybe honey or, redundantly, marmalade. I’ve been offered this at a dainty dinner party. A complete waste of effort.
They’re much nicer not grilled, for breakfast. But you have to catch them at that crucial instant when they’re just ripe, no longer terrifically bitter and sour, but both sweet and tangy, just before they start to taste of sick and the skins go soft and turn blue-grey with mould. “Goldfruit”? Not what I’d call a viable commercial crop, mate.
The Golden Mountain
Imagine a bright gold puddle of marmalade.
Mmm, on warm toast... Now imagine it on a steamed pudding, eaten with a milky custard. UGH!
I’ve got 24 recipes with marmalade in them in my recipes database and I’d eat at the most one or two. The rest are curiosities, mainly historical curiosities, from the days when the provident Antipodean housewife always had marmalade in the cupboard, almost inevitably homemade, and was desperate for something to jazz up the family puddings. The only other possibilities being jam or golden syrup, or, more rarely as the 20th century passed its thirties, treacle.
Yes, we did have steamed pudding with marmalade when I was a kid, though I don’t remember it past the age of about ten. Bought jam was expensive. If you had established fruit trees it was really economical to make your own, but in a very new, raw suburb, we didn’t. True, the horrible little red NZ guavas flourished like the proverbial—either fiercely sour or, when ripe, totally sicky, there was no intermediate stage when they were actually edible. A bit later, the banana passionfruit vine on the trellis would burst into exuberant fruit every year, but even Mum couldn’t think of anything to do with the blimming things. But that was it. We had a small apple tree and a small peach tree but it was several years before they grudgingly produced a couple of fruit a year.
Oranges were quite dear in the New Zealand shops—navel oranges had to be imported. But in the North Island almost everybody had a grapefruit tree: they bear so prolifically that people would be begging you to take some, and if the greengrocer could be persuaded to take some off the local home gardeners they’d be very cheap.
The milder varieties were unknown. There was an alternative, however: my grandfather grew them: huge, very, very bitter but very juicy things. “Weenies,” that was it! His joke—inevitably, us kids recognised—was that they were called that because they were weeny. Back then I never saw the name written down, but I’ve seen it since as “Wheeny,” the claim being that they are Australian and sweet. These were not sweet! Nanna never did anything with them except bestow them on the descendants. I do remember eating them—fruit was fruit. But they were pretty horrible.
In Australia citrus fruit was plentiful, with much a warmer climate, offering more choice for your homemade marmalade; and so the kitchen cupboards would be stuffed full of it, if slightly different-tasting, on both sides of the Tasman.
And thus we find the early recipe books of Australia bursting with economical recipes using marmalade: “Golden Pudding,” “Shirley’s Golden Pudding,” “Marmalade Pudding,” “Princess Pudding,” “Mount Lofty Pudding,” “Snowdon Pudding” (oops, where did that come from??). You could also put it in biscuits (“Pernatty Cookies”), little cakes (“Marmalade Cakes,” “Myra Cakes”), and “Welsh Cakes.” And of course in big fruit cakes: “Wedding Cake”, circa 1951, in Calendar of Cakes from the South Australian Country Women’s Association.
In New Zealand the Edmonds Cookery Book (De Luxe edition 1955, 1968 printing) had marmalade along with the dried fruit and peel in one of its recipes for “Fruit Cake.” Its “Mysterious Pudding” (a light version of steamed pudding, incorporating stiffly beaten egg whites) offers you the choice of either jam or marmalade in the bottom of the basin.
Which was how to do to it. Grease the pudding basin, put the marmalade in the bottom (if being mean a tablespoon, more if generous), pour in the pudding mix, tie it up and steam it for about an hour. Then tip it out onto a good-sized serving plate and you’ll find it gilded with golden globules running down its mountain-like sides into a golden pond...
“Ugh, marmalade?” the kids cry.
Princess Marmalade in the Sky
I found 2 almost identical recipes for “Princess Pudding” dating from the late 1940s to early 1950s. As usual at this period the cookery books have no date of publication on them, but we can date them fairly well from internal evidence. The name was probably a contemporary curtsey to Princess Elizabeth, as she was then. What makes a pudding “princess?” Your guess is as good as mine.
The coconut apart—it’s a fixation of Australian recipes of this era—these recipes for a marmalade-flavoured bread and butter custard are similar to the bread and butter pudding in that hilarious episode of Pie in the Sky called “The Mild Bunch.” Its secret was the marmalade that the bread and butter was spread with.
(Circa 1949, Green and Gold Cookery Book. 15th ed. (rev.),
from the section "Milk Puddings and Custards")
Three thin slices of bread, marmalade, desiccated cocoanut, two eggs, one pint milk, 1 oz. sugar.
Spread the bread with marmalade, put into a buttered piedish and sprinkle with cocoanut and sugar. Add the beaten egg and milk and bake in a moderate oven till set. -K.S.
(Circa 1952, Calendar of Puddings,
published by South Australian Country Women’s Association)
2 slices bread, 2 eggs, 1 pint milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, marmalade, cocoanut.
Spread the bread with marmalade and cut into fingers. Put in layers in a buttered piedish. Beat eggs with the sugar, add milk, and pour over the bread. Let stand 1/2 hour. Sprinkle with desiccated cocoanut and bake in slow oven about 1 hour, until custard is lightly set.
--MRS. E. LANG (Wirrulla)
Golden Mount Lofty
Of course the boiled or steamed pudding jollied up with marmalade derives from the British tradition. In The Book of Household Management (1861) Mrs Beeton puts marmalade in quite a few dishes—though as she uses “marmalade” in the older sense, a jam made from a firm-fleshed fruit such as apples or quinces, as well as in the modern sense of a citrus jam, you have to read the recipes carefully to be sure of what she means. Here are two of hers. First, her steamed batter pudding: I think it would turn out much, much lighter than many of the later versions favoured by the Antipodean cookery writers:
ORANGE BATTER PUDDING.
1249. INGREDIENTS.—4 eggs, 1 pint of milk, 1-1/4 oz. of loaf sugar, 3 tablespoonfuls of flour.
Mode.—Make the batter with the above ingredients, put it into a well-buttered basin, tie it down with a cloth, and boil for 1 hour. As soon as it is turned out of the basin, put a small jar of orange marmalade all over the top, and send the pudding very quickly to table.
Time.—1 hour. Average cost, with the marmalade, 1s. 3d. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons. Seasonable at any time; but more suitable for a winter pudding.
Below is the classic heavier version, to be reprised, with or without the suet, in thousands of Australasian households for the next hundred years:
1282. INGREDIENTS.—1/4 lb. of bread crumbs, 1/4 lb. of suet, 1/4 lb. of marmalade, 1/4 lb. of sugar, 4 eggs.
Mode.—Put the bread crumbs into a basin; mix with them the suet, which should be finely minced, the marmalade, and the sugar; stir all these ingredients well together, beat the eggs to a froth, moisten the pudding with these, and when well mixed, put it into a mould or buttered basin; tie down with a floured cloth, and boil for 2 hours. When turned out, strew a little fine-sifted sugar over the top, and serve.
Time.—2 hours. Average cost, 11d. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons. Seasonable at any time.
Note.—The mould may be ornamented with stoned raisins, arranged in any fanciful pattern, before the mixture is poured in, which would add very much to the appearance of the pudding. For a plainer pudding, double the quantities of the bread crumbs, and if the eggs do not moisten it sufficiently, use a little milk.
If you want direct proof of Mrs Beeton’s continuing influence on the cooking of the British Commonwealth well into the 20th century, you only need read “Snowdon Pudding” in the Green and Gold Cookery Book: that terrifically dainty aside about the raisins in Isabella’s note is leapt on with enthusiasm: this contributor to the book was clearly even more of a control freak than Mum was, fixated on the dainty and dinky:
Quarter pound raisins, 3 oz. suet, 3 oz. marmalade, grated lemon rind, one pinch salt, 1/4 lb. bread crumbs, 3/4 oz. ground rice, two eggs, 1/2 gill milk, 3 oz. sugar.
Ornament a greased basin with the raisins. Mix together suet, crumbs, ground rice, sugar, salt and lemon rind. Add marmalade, eggs and milk. Put in the prepared basin, cover with greased paper and steam one hour.
The first sentence is the crucial one. And if that pudding doesn’t look like a mountain daintily covered with rocks when it’s turned out, there’ll be Hell to pay!
British from Seville?
For well over a hundred years “Dundee” marmalade has been cited as the best British marmalade. Seems weird: oranges don’t grow in Scotland? Read on:
“Legend has it that in the 18th century a Spanish ship took refuge from a raging storm in the sheltered harbour of Dundee, Scotland. Its cargo included Seville oranges which were purchased on speculation by a Dundee grocer called James Keiller. It was Mrs. Keiller who saw the potential of these bitter Spanish oranges. She boiled the oranges with sugar and the resulting product was the delicious preserve now known as Dundee Orange Marmalade.”
(“James Keiller & Son Dundee Marmalade, Orange”, Wegmans),
Spreading to the Colonies...
We find Mrs Wicken giving a version of Mrs Beeton’s “Golden Pudding” for the Colonies as early as 1894 in Chapter 22, “Fifty Recipes for Sweets,” of The Art of Living in Australia:
1 Egg, and its Weight in Flour; Sugar; Bread Crumbs;
1 tablespoonful Marmalade; 1/2 teaspoonful Carbonate of Soda;
1/2 gill Milk
Total Cost—4d. Time—One Hour.
Mix the flour, sugar, and bread crumbs together; stir in the marmalade. Make the milk just warm, dissolve in it the soda. Beat up the egg and mix together, pour this over the dry ingredients, beat for a few minutes; turn into a buttered basin. Tie over it a cloth, plunge into boiling water, and boil one hour. Serve either hot or cold.
A spoonful of marmalade placed on the top of this pudding just before serving is an improvement.
Just don’t ask what was “Yankee” about marmalade!
You’ll note that already the recipe is bowdlerised: where Isabella generously poured a small pot of marmalade over her pudding, the parsimonious Mrs W., mindful of the desperate Colonial housewives who were her readers, only uses a spoonful.
Fifty-odd years later similar recipes abound in both the Green and Gold Cookery Book (around 1949) and the Calendar of Puddings (1952 or so): in fact it would be fair to conclude, judging from the books alone, that steamed or boiled pudding was the Australian favourite of the time. The kids of the time wouldn’t have agreed. Here’s one of the South Australian Green and Gold Cookery Book’s prize exhibits (it actually has 2 recipes under this name):
Mount Lofty Pudding
Two eggs, their weight in butter, sugar and flour, tablespoonful of marmalade, teaspoonful baking powder.
Method.—Beat the butter to a cream, and add to it the sugar, then the flour, in which the baking powder is added, then the marmalade. Beat eggs well, yolks and white separately. Add the whites last. Pour into a well-greased basin. Steam for one and a half hours. Serve with sweet sauce.
Like its predecessors it puts the marmalade in the mixture. The kids might have eaten it, with that “sweet sauce” on it. (Kind of a whitish sweetened glue.)
The name? Mt Lofty is a landmark in Adelaide, South Australia. Presumably the reference is to the shape of the turned-out pudding, though the actual Mt Lofty (not much more than a hill) looks nothing like that rounded volcanic cone shape. Sorry, but “Mount Eden Pudding” would be a better name: a turned-out pudding is very much the same shape as the volcanic cones all over the Auckland isthmus!
No, it doesn’t tell you to turn it out! This is the “Everybody Knows” syndrome, very, very common in the cookery books of the period. Actually it’s not uncommon in Adelaide today: you get myriads of ads on TV about some exciting event, which never explain where the venue is. Provincial? Parochial? You betcha!
There are myriads of recipes which put jam in the bottom of the pudding bowl: “Mum’s Delight,” for May 8, or “Waterfall Pudding,” for March 31, from the Calendar, “Aunt Margaret’s Pudding,” “Marguerite Pudding” (2 versions) and the other version of “Mount Lofty Pudding” from the Green and Gold Cookery Book, and “Steamed Sponge Pudding” from the Edmonds Cookery Book.
It’s the marmalade version that was inflicted on us at home that sticks in the memory, however. It was probably the Edmonds recipe, which is fairly obviously a hybrid, copied from a recipe that used jam:
2 ozs. Butter; 4 ozs. Flour; 2 ozs. Sugar;
1 teaspoon Edmonds Baking Powder;
1 tablespoon Grated Lemon or Orange Rind;
1 tablespoon Marmalade or Jam; 2 eggs
Grease a basin and put jam in the bottom. Cream butter and sugar; add rind and egg yolks, beat well. Then fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Stir and fold in flour and baking powder. Steam 1 1/2 hours. Serve with jam or Edmonds Custard.