This recipe comes from the delightfully-named 1911 book The Woman’s Book: Contains Everything a Woman Ought to Know. In addition to the expected sections on cooking, household management, and the care of children and pets, the book also contains some very progressive (for the time) chapters on careers for women. These outline the types of careers open to women, discuss the training and education needed for each career, and even note what salary to expect.
As a library worker myself, I was especially excited to find a section titled “Library Work and Indexing.” It begins by stating that “the field for women librarians is at present somewhat restricted, though there is every indication of future development in this direction.” The book was certainly prescient on that point; today (in the United States at least), a majority of librarians are women, although women are unfortunately still underrepresented in leadership roles. The book goes on to describe the qualities of a good librarian (“a good memory for facts and figures…a good education…well versed in bibliography, cataloguing, classification, and indexing), how to take classes for library work and how that much will cost, how to be certified by the Library Association, available scholarships, and average salary range: from £50 a year for an assistant to £150 a year for a head librarian (although, as the book states earlier, most head librarians at public libraries are men, with women relegated to being assistants). It even recommends gaining work experience through unpaid internships (put more eloquently as “give one’s services…for little or no remuneration”), which is advice still given to library students today.
It was fascinating to see a little slice of what my profession was like back in 1911. The Woman’s Book contains similarly detailed information for all of the women’s careers it lists, with all sorts of professions ranging from bee-keeping to opening a tea room. Information on various political and charitable organizations is also given, including how to join the women’s suffrage movement. In the days before the internet made information widely available, a book like this one would have been invaluable for women wanting to start careers or join political or charitable causes.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the 1911 career advice, I did look through the recipe section, too! I chose this recipe for Preserved Ginger Pudding simply because I had a jar of preserved ginger in my fridge that I wanted to use up. You can use either homemade or store-bought preserved ginger for this, but it does need to be the kind of ginger preserved in syrup – not the hard, crystallized kind.
Preserved Ginger Pudding:
- 2 eggs
- 3 oz butter
- 3 oz castor sugar
- 2 oz flour
- 2 oz rice flour
- 4 oz preserved ginger, chopped in small pieces
- 1 tbsp ginger syrup
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp powdered ginger
- Cream together the butter and sugar.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each one.
- Gradually add in the rice flour and all-purpose flour. Beat until smooth.
- Mix in the chopped preserved ginger, ginger syrup, baking powder, and powdered ginger, stirring just until combined.
- Pour mixture into a buttered 1 1/2 pint pudding basin.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the basin, butter both sides, and place it on top. Cover it with either a pudding cloth or with foil, making a pleat across the middle to give the pudding room to rise. Tie it tightly around the rim of the basin with string.
- Place a small plate upside-down on the bottom of a large pot of boiling water. Gently lower the pudding in so that it rests on the plate. The water should come about half-way up the pudding basin.
- Return the water to a full boil, then reduce it to a rolling boil. Boil for 1 1/2 hours, topping up the water level with more boiling water if necessary.
- Let the pudding sit in the basin for about 5 minutes, then loosen the sides with a knife and turn out of the basin on to a plate. Serve with custard sauce.
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 egg white
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- few drops vanilla extract
- Put the milk in a saucepan and heat over low heat just until warm.
- Whisk the egg yolks, egg white, and sugar together in a bowl.
- Gradually pour in the warm milk, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from curdling.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (I got impatient with how slowly my custard was cooking and added some cornstarch to it; I must have gone a bit overboard with this because my custard ended up nearly solid. If you do use cornstarch, add it sparingly. The custard sauce should be thick, but still pourable).
- Once the custard is thick enough, remove from heat, pour through a strainer, and add vanilla or flavoring of your choice.
This was a delicious pudding. The ginger flavor was surprisingly light and delicate, not overpowering at all as I had feared. The texture was nicely spongey and fluffy, once again confirming my recently-discovered love of steamed puddings. The custard sauce was a little less successful; it was simply not thickening at all until I added cornstarch, then thickened much too quickly and much too much (I had bought a different type of eggs than what I usually use…can I blame it on that?). I think this is more my fault than the fault of the recipe, since it seems like a very standard custard sauce. Still, it wasn’t bad, and the vanilla flavor in the sauce worked well with the ginger pudding. I would certainly consider this pudding one of the many things A Woman Ought To Know.
Jack, F.B. and Strauss, R. (1911). The woman’s book: Contains everything a woman ought to know. London: T.C. & E.C. Jack. https://archive.org/details/womansbook00jack/page/n3/mode/2up