My recipe for you this month is for a Traditional Plum Loaf, based on an historic recipe which originates from the Alford area.
It dates back to the time when my Great Great Grandmother Chambers' family were Millers and Bakers in Alford in the 1800s and into the 1900s.
It is hard to pinpoint an exact date as many of these recipes were handed down from generation to generation.
Along with Sausages and Stuffed Chine, this is probably one of our best known and loved Lincolnshire dishes.
No local buffet table, whether it be a Christening or Funeral would be complete without a generous plate of Plum Loaf, spread with butter and topped with a good cheese.
I actually have a recipe dating back to 1730, so it's been a part of our culinary landscape for a very long time indeed.
In the past many housewives had their own recipe for plum bread and each would believe theirs to be the definitive recipe.
It was usual to have two recipes, one for everyday use and another one for special occasions.
There is wide variety of Plum Loaf recipes; some are very rich breads made with yeast and contain lots of fruit, others can be fairly plain, right up to almost being like a fruit cake.
I think this recipe is a good all-rounder that pleases most people. I don't put mixed peel in mine, however feel free to put an ounce in if you like it, just reduce the other dried fruit by an ounce to keep the overall quantities the same. I use grated lemon and orange zest, which gives a nice flavour.
Apologies if you work in metric, as due to the age of this recipe it is all in Imperial measurements.
Historically twelve plum loaves would be made at Christmas or New Year, as each loaf was supposed to signify a happy month in the forthcoming year.
This was of particular significance as plum loaves were often given away as gifts to family, friends and neighbours.
To be given a gift of twelve plum loaves represented being given a whole year of happiness.
Although the origins of this custom are lost, people still exchange gifts of plum loaves and have them as part of their festive fayre.
I'm not suggesting you make 12 but I thought it would be nice to have a go at baking your very own Lincolnshire speciality this year.
Makes two loaves.
Equipment: You will need two loaf tins, greased well; Bowl to soak your fruit in; A large mixing bowl; A Bowl or jug for your eggs;
Scales; Wooden spoon; Measuring spoons; Measuring Jug; Fork
1lb Plain Flour
8oz Caster Sugar
3oz Cold Butter (cubed up small)
3oz Cold Lard (cubed up small)
Zest of one organic unwaxed lemon
Zest of one organic unwaxed oranges
1 TBSP Golden Syrup
¼ pint Milk
1oz Baking Powder
Very small pinch of salt
Couple table spoons of Port
Soak your dried fruit and zests in the port, preferably overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 150c/300f/gas mark 2.
Sieve your Flour, Baking Powder and Salt together in your large mixing bowl.
Stir in your Caster Sugar
Beat your eggs up and then put in your Golden Syrup
Measure out your milk.
Rub your fats into your flour as if you were making scones. It should be the texture of course breadcrumbs.
Add in your fruits, zest and port mixture and give it a stir.
Add in your egg and syrup, give it a stir
Finally add in your milk.
Now straight away divide the mixture between your two tins.
Don't leave them hanging about as your baking powder will be starting to work.
Bake for 45min to an hour.
When cooked take them out and cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto cooling racks.
When cold wrap them up in greaseproof paper and then foil and put in your cake tin and store somewhere fairly cool, but not the Fridge.
Will keep for a two or three days, but this is good to eat straight away.
Serve sliced up, spread with butter and topped with cheese of your choice, but not blue or soft!
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2014.
For details of my previous Target recipes please see them on www.rjhirstfamilybutchers.co.uk or email me for a copy on firstname.lastname@example.org
Sadie Hirst is a member of the British Society of Baking, a keen collector of historic local recipes and is passionate about preserving and recreating Lincolnshire speciality dishes.