Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Plumb and Plum

Even lubbers have heard of a “plumb line” or a “plumb bob” and know of its use in carpentry. Of course, the same tool is used in ship building. Something is plumb when it is straight up and down and a string with a weight on the end can be used to determine plumb.

The word is also used at sea to indicate sounding water depth. This is where the verbal metaphor of “plumbing the depths” comes from.

A plummet is the hand-lead that one sees cast into the water in films like Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World in order to determine not only depth but sometimes constitution of the ocean/river floor. Thus the call in the movie of “sand and broken shell”. A plummet may also rightly be the line mentioned earlier, for use in carpentry.

Speaking of O’Brian, a favorite dessert at sea in all of his Aubrey/Maturin series is plum duff. Essentially “duff” is a sailor’s pronunciation of “dough” and the stuff – at least by land – is rather like bread pudding. At sea it is an entirely different concoction and even on the page it sounds unctuous at best. Just in case you are feeling energetic, and you have the curiosity and constitution of Andrew Zimmern from “Bizarre Foods”, here is the seagoing recipe. It is followed by its more palatable and lubberly cousin. Both are from Anne Grossman and Lisa Thomas and can be found in their book Lobscouse & Spotted Dog: Which It’s a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels.

4 pounds flour, 2 pounds grated pork fat, 1 cup sugar, 1 quart water, 1 ½ cups raisins or dried currants

Mix all together and knead thoroughly, adding extra water as necessary. When dough is stiff, divide into 8 equal portions and tie each snugly into a floured pudding bag or cloth (such as cheesecloth or gauze). Put the bags in the pot(s) in which the salt meat for dinner is boiling and cook for 4 to 5 hours.

Plum Duff Another Way

1 ounce comprees/1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 cup warm water, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup warm milk, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons allspice, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 ½ cup raisins, 4 cups flour

Put the yeast in a large bowl with the water and 1 tablespoon of the sugar, stir briefly, then cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm place for about 15 minutes. When bubbles appear in the water/yeast mixture, stir in remaining sugar, milk, salt, allspice and cinnamon. Combine the raisins with the flour, which will keep them from clumping together, and add to the yeast mixture. Stir into a stiff dough. Cover with the damp cloth and set in a warm place to double in bulk (about an hour).

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic. Tie loosely in a well-floured cloth. Place in a large pot of boiling water to cover. Cover, bring back to a boil and cook rapidly for 1 ½ hours. Note that you may need to add more water as it cooks.

Remove the pudding from the pot, untie and turn it out onto a serving dish. Slice into thin wedges and serve with a sweet sauce of your choice.

Header: Rose as HMS Surprise by Geoff Hunt (thanks, Munin)


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! Neither version sounds very appealing to me, but being the lubber that I am, if I had to pick one ("if you're going to push me") I'd have to take the second one.

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy! Me too, if I'm honest; maybe we a caramel or vanilla sauce.

Munin said...

Beg'n yer pardon, Cap'n. 'Tis not my wish to be flogged, Miss *tips virtual hat*, but the header painting of Rose/Surprise is by the schoolgirl crush-inducing Geoff Hunt, and not Choi.

As for Plum Duff, I think I'll pass. I'd rather take ships biscuit with added weevils. I can pretend they're rusks.

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Munin and thankee for the correction. I want to get these things right and will correct my error ASAP! Keep on keeping me honest, and send me a few of your paintings soon!

Munin said...

Hehe, no problem. I'm sure you've forgotten more than I'll ever know about seafaring. :) Oh, I've got a shipsie painting I'll email you too.