Are there plums in Plum Pudding?

How many times have you read a Christmas scene in a historical book where the family was enjoying their plum pudding (often referred to as Christmas pudding)?  Did you know exactly what plum pudding was?  Did you ever wonder if there are plums in plum pudding?  And better yet, how did they get plums in December?  My curiosity finally got the better of me, and I looked up the recipe!  There are many versions of this recipe.  This one was taken from Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry Cakes, by Miss Leslie of Philadelphia.

And no, there are no plums in plum pudding!

PLUM PUDDING

One pound of raisins, stoned and cut in half.
One pound of currants, picked, washed, and dried.
One pound of beef suet, chopped fine.
One pound of grated stale bread, or, half a pound of flour and half a pound of bread.
Eight eggs.
One pound of sugar.
One glass of brandy.
One pint of milk.
One glass of wine.
Two nutmegs, grated.
One table-spoonful of mixed cinnamon and mace.
One salt-spoonful of salt.

You must prepare all your ingredients the day before (except beating the eggs) that in the morning you may have nothing to do but to mix them, as the pudding will require six hours to boil.

Beat the eggs very light, then put to them half the milk and beat both together. Stir in gradually the flour and grated bread. Next add the sugar by degrees. Then the suet and fruit alternately.

The fruit must be well sprinkled with flour, lest it sink to the bottom. Stir very hard. Then add the spice and liquor, and lastly the remainder of the milk. Stir the whole mixture very well together. If it is not thick enough, add a little more grated bread or flour. If there is too much bread or flour, the pudding will be hard and heavy.

Dip your pudding-cloth into boiling water, shake it out and sprinkle it slightly with flour. Lay it in a pan, and pour the mixture into the cloth. Tie it up carefully, allowing room for the pudding to swell.

Boil it six hours, and turn it carefully out of the cloth.

Before you send it to table, have ready some blanched sweet almonds cut into slips, or some slips of citron, or both. Stick them all over the outside of the pudding.

Eat with wine or with a sauce made of drawn butter, wine and nutmeg.

The pudding will be improved if you add to the other ingredients, the grated rind of a large lemon
or orange.

And because this IS a historical blog, I had to share this little except on the history of plum pudding:

The plum pudding’s association with Christmas takes us back to medieval England and the Roman Catholic Chruch’s decree that the ‘pudding should be made on the twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, that it be prepared with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve apostles, and that that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honor the Magi and their supposed journey in that direction.’… Banned by the Puritans in the 1660s for its rich ingredients, the pudding and its customs came back into popularity during the reign of George I. Known sometimes as the Pudding King, George I requested that plum pudding be served as part of his royal feast when he celebrated his first Christmas in England after arriving from Hanover to take the throne in 1714. By 1740, a recipe for ‘plum porridge’ appeared in Christmas Entertainments. In the Victorian era, Christmas annuals, magazines, and cookbooks celebrated the sanctity of family as much as the sanctity of Jesus’ birth, and the tradition of all family members stirring the pudding was often referenced…Poorer families made the riches version of plum pudding that they could afford…Even workhouse inmates anticipated a plum pudding on Christmas Day.

—Food and Cooking in Victorian England: A History, Andrea Broomfield [Praeger:Westport CT] 2007 (p. 150-151)

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6 Responses to Are there plums in Plum Pudding?

  1. How funny!

    I wonder if an original recipe also had prunes in it. Since raisins are dried grapes and prunes are dried plums, maybe there is a recipe out there with prunes as an ingredient.

    Or not.

    Maybe Mrs. Catherine Plum won a King’s pudding contest and that’s how it got its name. :>P

    Thanks for your research. The recipe you present sounds delicious. Have you tried it out yet?! :>)

  2. Jennifer says:

    Danielle, I thought I’d see prunes in the recipe too! I haven’t tried it, but I think it would be fun to try…it’s one of those recipes where you want someone in the kitchen with as you experiment! Cause it’s always more fun with two 😀

    When I was at OSV two weeks ago I had some fruitcake made from the old fashion recipe (stay tuned it’ll be posted) and I REALLY liked it. It’s what REAL fruitcake should be like.

  3. Audry says:

    When I was doing some research into old Christmas treats recently, I learned that way back when “plum” could refer to any dried fruit – raisins, apricots, etc. and didn’t necessarily refer to the fresh fruit we call a plum at all.

  4. Audry says:

    sorry, I was wrong, not any ol’ dried fruit…

    “According to the food historians, the word plum in Victorian times referred to raisins or dried currants, not plums as we Americans think of them today.”

  5. Great post. I think it’s neat to track down original recipes and the stories behind the stories, so to speak.

    I thought there would be prunes in plum pudding, too: partly because it’s hard to picture “stoning” a raisin, (but you would stone a prune). And partly because it’s hard to imagine a whole pound of raisins in half. Is it possible the original recipe was copied down wrong? If not, those cooks in jolly old England worked hard!

  6. PS: I meant to say, “cutting” a whole pound of raisins in half.

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