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November 28, 2001|CINDY DORN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DEAR SOS: We read a poem called "Little Jack Horner" and in it was a Christmas pie. We want to know what is in a Christmas pie. Do you have a recipe for it? Thank you.

MRS. HIGASHI'S CLASS

Palms Elementary

Grade 2

Los Angeles

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DEAR CLASS: In England, plum pie (Christmas pie) came to be called plum pudding (Christmas pudding). Neither the pie nor the pudding has plums. That's because long ago in England, prunes, then raisins, were called plums. It's a little bit confusing, but so is the rhyme. Good boys don't stick their thumbs in pies, do they?

There's a legend (a story that is handed down for generations that can't be verified) that goes like this: When Henry VIII was King of England in the 16th century, he abolished the Catholic Church in his country and formed the Church of England. The king took the land, buildings and wealth of the Catholic churches and kept them for himself. An abbot of the Catholic Church sent his errand boy named Jack Horner to the king with a gift: a pie stuffed with deeds (a paper that gives legal ownership of property) to 12 manors. A manor is a big mansion with lots of land.

The abbot wanted to keep Henry VIII happy because this particular king beheaded lots of people, including two of his wives. On the way to deliver the pie, Jack Horner stuck his hand in it and pulled out the deed to the Manor of Mells, a "plum." There are Horner descendants that still live at the Manor of Mells, but they insist that their ancestor bought the manor from the king, properly.

Here is a good Web site for kids with more information on Henry VIII: http://www.brims.co.uk/tudors.

That's a long answer to a short question. Here is a kid-friendly recipe for Christmas pudding that ran in The Times in 1904 and was reprinted in 1998 in our "Times Past" column. Writer Leilah Bernstein said: "The traditional accompaniment for the dish is hard sauce. The substitution of grape jelly for the usual brandy, rum or whiskey in the hard sauce recipe probably reflects the temperance sentiment predominant in Los Angeles at the time."

Ask Mrs. Higashi to explain temperance.

Ask your butcher or at the meat counter for beef fat trimmings.

Christmas Pudding

Active Work Time: 35 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 4 1/2 hours

11/4 cups currants

1/4 cup blanched almonds, cut in bits

11/4 cups raisins, chopped fine

1/3 cup shredded candied citron

1/4 cup candied lemon peel, cut in thin strips

1/4 cup candied orange peel, cut in thin strips

2 cups flour, divided

1/2 pound solid beef fat trimmings

3 eggs, separated

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons cold water

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Juice of 1 orange

Juice of 1 lemon

Holly sprigs, for garnish, optional

Hard Sauce, optional

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Grease a 1 1/2-quart pudding mold with butter. Set aside.

Combine the currants, almonds, raisins, candied citron and candied lemon and orange peels in a bowl. Coat with 1/4 cup of flour. Add the beef fat trimmings and mix again. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until smooth. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.

Dissolve the baking soda in cold water.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar by beating until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg yolks. Stir in the milk, then stir in the stiff egg whites alternately with the remaining 13/4 cups flour. Add the cinnamon, cloves, salt, nutmeg, orange juice, lemon juice and dissolved baking soda. Stir in the flour-coated fruit mixture.

Fill the mold with the pudding and cover tightly. Set the mold in a pot and add boiling water until it comes halfway up the sides of the mold. Keep the water at a simmer, adding more as needed, 3 hours.

Let the pudding cool, turn it out of the mold, decorate it with sprigs of holly and serve with Hard Sauce.

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12 servings. Each serving: 396 calories; 224 mg sodium; 85 mg cholesterol; 21 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 48 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 2.66 grams fiber.

Hard Sauce for Kids (No Brandy)

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes

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1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 egg yolk, beaten

3/4 cup melted grape jelly

Dash grated nutmeg

Beat the butter, brown sugar and egg yolk in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.

Place the mixture in a saucepan and simmer 5 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Add the jelly, then pour the sauce into a bowl and sprinkle with nutmeg.

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2 cups. Each 2-tablespoon serving: 131 calories; 63 mg sodium; 29 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 20 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0 fiber.

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Send requests to Culinary SOS, Food Section, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 or e-mail to: cindy.dorn@latimes.com. Please include your last name and city of residence for publication. Include restaurant address when requesting recipes from restaurants.

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