Tag Archives: Baking and Confections

Rhubarb Pudding


One of my spring rites is making rhubarb pudding from the plants that have grown along the garden wall since well before my time, and I’ve lived here for several decades.  I’ve added some of the new, deeper red rhubarb plants over the years, but only one has survived.  This improved cultivar seems to lack the vigor of the old.  So I cut a few stalks from it, then return to the faithful clumps for the bulk of my harvest.  Today was my first pilgrimage to the rhubarb patch and I returned to the kitchen with a goodly supply of stalks.  Now the pudding is chilling in the fridge in the big brown and white pottery bowl I’ve had for ages.

I love this stuff.  Not everyone does and rhubarb may be an acquired taste, but many of our little people like it, and young children haven’t had much of an opportunity to acquire a taste.

I don’t use an actual recipe because, as with many old Southern dishes, my mother-in-law taught me how to make this, and I’ve adapted it somewhat, but I’ll take a stab at a recipe for you.

Cut or purchase several good handfuls of rhubarb. The amount can vary. Chop the stems into two inch pieces and put them in a large saucepan (I use a 2-3 quart one) and barely cover with water.  Simmer, stirring frequently, until the stems are completely broken down.  Then whisk the cooked pieces until smooth.  Season with sugar to taste (I use about one to two cups depending on the amount).  Add two-three heaping tablespoons of instant tapioca (again, depending on how much liquid you’ve used) and simmer until the tiny pearls are clear. Add 2-3 tablespoons of strawberry gelatin and stir until dissolved.  Set mixture aside and chill in fridge until it sets. Add cut up strawberries if available after the pudding has cooled.

Old English Plum Pudding from The Virginia House-Wife Cookbook


Old English Plum Pudding~

Beat eight eggs very light, add to them a pound of flour sifted, and a pound of powdered sugar; when it looks quite light, put in a pound of suet finely shredded, a pint of milk, a nutmeg grated, and a gill of brandy; mix with a pound of dried currants, and a pound of raisins stoned and floured–tie in a thick cloth and boil it steadily for eight hours.

A variation of that theme is just called Plum Pudding:

Take a pound of best flour, sift it, and make it up before sunrise, with six eggs beaten light; a large spoonful of good yeast, and as much milk as will make it the consistency of bread (dough); let it rise well, knead into it a half pound of butter, put in a grated nutmeg, with one and a half pounds of raisins stoned and cut up; mix well together, wet the cloth, flour it, and tie it loosely, that the pudding may have room to rise.

*Raisins for pudding or cakes should be rubbed in a little flour to prevent their settling to the bottom–see that it does not stick to them in lumps. *Cloths for boiling puddings should be made of German sheeting; an article less thick will admit water and injure the pudding.

She doesn’t say anything more than this. I’m assuming this pudding is also to be boiled for the above mentioned eight hours. I never made either but thought they looked fascinating.

In doing more investigation on English plum pudding, I came across a wonderful account and old recipe with more details. He says to cover the pot in which you’re boiling the pudding and check to be sure it doesn’t boil dry: http://www.homemade-dessert-recipes.com/plum-pudding-recipe.html

Old Southern Recipe for Spicy Raisin Cookies~Lady Baltimore


This recipe is from my old cookbook Charleston Receipts.

Lady Baltimore Cookies:

Cream together: 1 cup shortening, 11/2 cups sugar, 3 eggs

*Those of you who butcher your own pigs might want to substitute lard.  Those of you interested in a more healthful substitute are out of luck. 🙂  If you try a healthful oil let me know how it works out.

Dissolve 1/2 tsp. soda in 2 tsps. water and add to creamed ingredients. Mix and sift together: 3 cups flour, 11/2 tsps. salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp. allspice, 1 tsp. cloves, 1 tsp. nutmeg and blend into wet mixture. Add 11/2 cup raisins and 1/2 cup nut meats and mix well.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased sheet.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.  Makes about 70 cookies and they are quite good.  Perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of Earl Grey.

Down-Home Cornbread


This recipe is from The Good Land by Patricia B. Mitchell.  She tells of the strong influence Native Americans and the corn they grew had on the early colonists.  Corn became a vital staple in the colonial diet, and still is on us today.

11/2 c. cornmeal, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 cups corn kernels, drained, 1 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 cup grated cheese

Mix together dry ingredients. In a separate large bowl combine the remaining ingredients, then stir in the dry mixture. When moistened throughout, spoon into a well greased 10 1/2-inch iron skillet. Bake at 350 F. for 45 minutes.  Makes eight large moist wedges rather like spoon bread.

Christmas Memories


Contributed by my friend Scarlet Pumpernickel from The Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers~

I was just thinking about my grandmother, we called her Ma Ma. Something Barbara M. said in an email made me think of her. You see, Barbara cooked a duck today–said it turned out wonderfully and she was looking forward to not doing the dishes. The not doing the dishes part was what reminded me of Ma Ma.

I love to cook, but I hate washing dishes, where my grandmother really didn’t care for cooking, but loved washing dishes. We had the perfect relationship for holiday meals, I’d cook and she’d wash dishes. Every holiday she’d be up early, cleaning up behind me as I prepared all the family favorites. Oh, I didn’t say she never complained, she did, but still she’d wash the dishes. Her pet name for me was Tootsie, and she would say, “Lord amercy, Tootsie, I don’t know how you manage to mess up so many dishes.” It was easy, I knew I wouldn’t have to wash them!

She spent her last nine years living with me and my family. She was quite a blessing for us. I never had to worry about the children getting home from school before I got home from work because Ma Ma was always there to watch them.

Now Ma Ma had a favorite Christmas cake she called Lemon Cheese. Why she called it Cheese was a mystery, since it didn’t contain cheese! Anyway, her Lemon Cheese Cake was famous in our family and all over the neighborhood. People always came by to sample “Belle’s Lemon Cheese Cake.” Nephews had been known to drive transfer trucks half way across the country just to get a piece of Aunt Belle’s Lemon Cheese cake.

The last couple years with her health failing she wasn’t able to stand to make the sugar icing for the cake because it had to be stirred constantly, so she asked me to make it for her. This was somewhat of an honor, because she guarded her recipe for Lemon Cheese Cake, even from me, her only granddaughter. So, early one morning she joined me in the kitchen and instructed me on making “Belle’s Lemon Cheese Cake.” It was a fairly simple recipe, a boiled sugar icing with grated lemon rhine. “No, ma’am, I won’t give out your recipe, Ma Ma. Yes, ma’am, I promise. I’m just telling the story.”

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, we were making the icing. Remember I said it had to boil? I stood over the stove and stirred and stirred, then finally Ma Ma came over took the spoon from me lifted it to make the syrup spin a thread and pronounced it ready to spread. I took it from the stove, followed her directions to cool the icing, then spread it on the cake. Most of the icing ended up on the table! It just would not set! Finally, Ma Ma said, “It’s alright Tootsie, we’ll put it in the frig and it will set.” So with the icing still trying to drip off the plate, we moved it to the frig and sure enough, it set up. But, I didn’t recall Ma Ma having any such problem in the past.

The next year we again made the cake with the same result. I cooked and stirred, she declared it ready and it ended up on the table again. So off to the frig it went! Ma Ma had her own little kitchen in our basement, so she kept the cake in her frig to serve to her friends and family when they came by.

One afternoon a cousin stopped by and I decided to go down and visit with Ma Ma and her company. As I neared the bottom of the stairs I hear Ma Ma open the frig offering her guest a piece of her cake. “Tootsie made this one. It’s not as good as mine used to be, she can’t get the icing right, but still it is good.”

Suddenly I realized I’d been had! MaMa had been deliberately having me take the icing off the stove before it set! She’d done it on purpose because she didn’t want to share her prized Lemon Cheese Cake! The next year, sadly after she’d passed away, I used a candy thermometer and the icing set perfectly. The only detail she’d left out of the recipe was how to make the syrup spin a thread to tell it was set!

A Good Southern Banana Bread Recipe


banana bread1 cup sugar

1/2 cup shortening

2 eggs

3 large mashed bananas

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 3/4 cups all-purpose  flour

3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Cream sugar and shortening.  Add eggs and mashed bananas.

Combine dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture.  Bake in loaf pan at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Makes one large or two small loaves.

This original recipe is one my sister in law uses and is in our church cookbook.

*My variation of this recipe.

I substituted 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar for the cup of white and used half soft whole wheat flour in with the all-purpose.  Rather than the shortening, I used 1/2 cup of Smart Balance Omega oil. I also added 1/4 cup milled flax seed and a generous dash of nutmeg.   I never add nuts so that wasn’t an option.  Too much nut intolerance in the family.  This made a more nutritious and good, moist loaf.  My picky little four yr old grandson asked for more.  🙂

Old Southern Recipe for Huckleberry Muffins


HuckleberriesFrom the Charleston Receipts Book published in 1950:

2 cups flour

1/4 cup shortening *(I imagine you can substitute oil)

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup milk

1 cup huckleberries or blueberries

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

1-2 eggs

Sprinkle some of the flour over the berries.  Sift the rest of the flour with other dry ingredients.

Melt shortening and combine with milk and beaten egg yolks.

Mix dry and liquid mixtures quickly and fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.  *(I’m assuming the berries go in last)

Bake 30 minutes in 400 degree oven.

*I remember my late uncle, Augusta County, VA native, RW Moffett, describe his annual treks into the mountains to pick huckleberries while keeping a sharp eye out for bears and rattlesnakes.  I suppose it made the berries that much sweeter.  He knew where the best patches were and had good friends among the mountain people.