Just What Does It Take to Ignite the Brandy?

Times Staff Writer

Question: While recently entertaining guests for dinner, I served plum pudding for dessert. Before bringing it to the table, I poured brandy over the top and tried to ignite it with a match. Nothing happened. One friend suggested that the 80-proof brandy I was using might not be potent enough. Is that true?

Answer: We checked several sources and they all claim most 80-proof brandy will ignite readily if at room temperature. The key word could be “most”, and your brand may be an exception to the rule.

A booklet from the California Brandy Advisory Board goes on to say, “To flame California brandy correctly, it should be warmed ahead of time. If you neglect this important step, pour the brandy into a heated spoon or ladle” before igniting.

Warm the brandy, but don’t bring it to a boil. Then carefully ignite using a long match and pour the still-flaming liquid over the plum pudding.


Q: I wonder if you have a recipe for Olive Oil Pickles? These pickles are not cooked, but cured in brine. Besides sliced cucumbers, it includes salt, mustard seed, olive oil and vinegar.

A: We found a recipe in “Things You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Food & Drink” (Holt, Rinehart & Winston: 1972) by the late Helen McCully. The original recipe for Eleanor Hempstead’s Olive Oil Pickles called for powdered alum, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture Home and Garden Bulletin No. 92 says is no longer needed to make pickles crisp and firm if good-quality ingredients and up-to-date procedures are used.

The following is a revised version of the recipe:



4 quarts tiny cucumbers (no more than 3 inches long), very thinly sliced

8 very thinly sliced onions


1 pint vinegar


1/2 cup dry mustard

2 tablespoons celery seeds

2 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric


1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

2 tablespoons sugar

Dash hot pepper sauce

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


2 1/2 cups olive oil

Place cucumbers and onions in large stone crock, glass or stainless steel container. Dissolve 2 cups salt in 1 gallon cold water and pour over vegetables. Add salt and water in same proportions as necessary to cover vegetables. Cover and allow to stand 24 hours. Drain.

Combine vinegar, dry mustard, celery seeds, mustard seeds, turmeric, curry powder, sugar, hot pepper sauce, pepper and olive oil in saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring frequently.

Pack drained pickles and onions into hot sterilized pint jars. Pour in boiling pickling liquid, making certain vegetables are completely covered and leaving 1/2-inch head space.


Adjust caps. Process 15 minutes in boiling water bath. Cool and check seals before storing in dark, dry, cool place. Makes 6 pints.

Address questions on food preparation to You Asked About , Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Personal replies cannot be given.