Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy


When I posted several days ago, I had plans to write again either later that day or early the next morning. I did try to write then, but life intruded and we got terribly busy and all of my plans sort of went downhill from there and I really should schedule my time better, except that seems impossible sometimes with kids/pets/friends/crafting/cooking/the holidays/my wonderful husband, etc., and I want to be clear that I am not complaining, and am deeply grateful for that sort of "problem".

And aren't I the Queen of the run-on sentence?

So, without further ado, here is last week's post, today. Fresher than fresh!

When I was about six or so, my dad gave me a book of poems for children. I can only remember a few of the poems in the book; The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe and The Duel, by Eugene Field. I liked The Raven, even though it was terribly scary, but I loved The Duel, because it was funny and silly.

I would imagine that most children have heard it, even if they may not know it by name. It starts like this:

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'T was half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t' other had slept a wink!
The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
(I was n't there; I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

You can find the entire poem here(^) or download the book Love-Songs of Childhood, by Eugene Field(^) here at Project Gutenberg ( free - the book is many decades out of copyright).

Eugene Field wrote also wrote the poem Wynken, Blynken, and Nod(^), which starts off:

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we,”
Said Wynken,
And Nod.
I was reminded of Eugene Field and his poems when I thought of Clement Moore's A Visit from St. Nicholas(^), which begins:
’T WAS the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that ST. NICHOLAS soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
When I think of sugar plums, I think of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet, of course, but also think of this poem by Eugene Field, The Sugar-Plum Tree (see where we're going with this?)
Have you ever heard of the Sugar-Plum Tree?
'T is a marvel of great renown!
It blooms on the shore of the Lollipop sea
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town;
The fruit that it bears is so wondrously sweet
(As those who have tasted it say)
That good little children have only to eat
Of that fruit to be happy next day.

When you've got to the tree, you would have a hard time
To capture the fruit which I sing;
The tree is so tall that no person could climb
To the boughs where the sugar-plums swing!
But up in that tree sits a chocolate cat,
And a gingerbread dog prowls below--
And this is the way you contrive to get at
Those sugar-plums tempting you so:

You say but the word to that gingerbread dog
And he barks with such terrible zest
That the chocolate cat is at once all agog,
As her swelling proportions attest.
And the chocolate cat goes cavorting around
From this leafy limb unto that,
And the sugar-plums tumble, of course, to the ground--
Hurrah for that chocolate cat!

There are marshmallows, gumdrops, and peppermint canes,
With stripings of scarlet or gold,
And you carry away of the treasure that rains
As much as your apron can hold!
So come, little child, cuddle closer to me
In your dainty white nightcap and gown,
And I 'll rock you away to that Sugar-Plum Tree
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town.
Sweet poem, right? But what are sugarplums? I had no idea until I looked them up. I vaguely thought that they might be something along the lines of an English boiled pudding or maybe candied plums, I wasn't really sure. So I went to the encyclopedia and... got two different answers.

Hundreds of years ago, sugarplums were small fruits, seeds or nuts, heavily candied with sugar (think: candied cherries in fruitcake). So candied plums were sort of right.

Now, though, and for some time, Sugarplums have come to mean dried fruit and nuts, chopped coarsely and mixed with spices and vanilla, then dredged in sugar. That's it.

Essentially, sugarplums are fruitcake without the cake; ideal for people who can't or don't eat wheat. I reviewed a couple dozen recipes before making my own, and ended up making mine with the fruit I would use to make fruitcake if I still baked with wheat. The only fruit I left out were the candied cherries, because they don't seem at home with the rest of the fruit I used.

Add them if you'd like, as well as any other fruit or nuts you prefer.

1 cup almonds
1 cup pecans
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup raisins
½ cup prunes
1 cup dates
1 cup apricots (which the SuperCat calls Leprechauns)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
2 tablespoons candied ginger
(or) 1 teaspoon dried ginger
2 small seedless clementines (tangerines)
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
½ cup shredded coconut
sugar to coat (it took about ½ cup)
Optional: either add or substitute 1 scant tsp orange oil or orange extract for orange peel.
1). Chop nuts and dried fruit to a uniform small coarse size using a food processor or by hand, add to large bowl.
2). Peel tangerines, add pulp to bowl, reserve half of the peel.
3). Scrape the inside of the remaining peel to remove pith, then finely chop peel, and add to bowl.
4). Add spices and vanilla.
5). Add orange oil or orange extract if desired. We really like the flavor of orange and add both the peel and the orange oil, which can be found in the spice aisle.

Everything in the mixing bowl, ready to mix

6). Mix all with a spoon or your hands until thoroughly incorporated.
7). Roll into ¾ inch balls, dredge in sugar.

Sugarplums with vintage deer & cookie jars

Yield: Makes about 3 dozen sugarplums.

Close-up of finished sugarplums.
It took me only about 20 minutes to make a double batch (about 6 dozen).
They were quick and so delicious!

My test subject beloved husband, who likes fruitcake but loved the sugarplums.

He's almost always a good sport when it comes to trying out my recipes
(unless they have mayonnaise, which he will not eat).

Yay, he liked it!
Time for another one!

Current Mood: Photobucket Busy in the kitchen

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