History of Plum Pudding:
Photo from Zarbo Delicatessen & Cafe
Plum pudding is a steamed or boiled pudding
frequently served at holiday times. Plum pudding has never contained plums. The name
Christmas pudding is first recorded in 1858 in a novel by Anthony Trollope.
Why is Plum Pudding called
Plum Pudding when there are no plums in it? In the 17th century, plums referred to raisins
or other fruits. Plumb is another spelling of plum. Prune is actually derived from the same word as plum - the Latin
word was pruna, which changed in the Germanic languages into pluma. But the terms were
quite confused in the 16th and 17th centuries and people talked about growing prunes in
(1) Defination of "plum" in the Oxford English Dictionary
A dried grape or raisin as used for puddings, cakes, etc. This use probably arose
from the substitution of raisins for dried plums or prunes as an ingredient in plum-broth,
porridge, etc., with retention of the name 'plum' for the substituted
article. The OED then goes on to list occurrences of this use in
literature. Samuel Johnson defined a "plum" as "raisin; grape dried
in the sun."
(2) Some information from A Gourmetīs Guide by John Ayto
"Dried plums, or prunes, were popular in pies in medieval times, but gradually in the
sixteenth and seventeenth century they began to be replaced by raisins. The dishes made
with them, however, retained the term plum, and to this day the plum pudding, plum cake,
plum duff etc. remind us of their former ingredients." And yes, the raisins were
sometimes called plums in the 19th century, but only when they were in a plum pudding or
plum cake ...
(3) Quote from The Gourmets Guide
"Nowadays served only at Christmas, and so called exclusively Christmas pudding, this
was formerly a common year-round pudding (albeit not always as rich as the festive
version); indeed, in 1748 Pehr Kalm, a Swedish visitor to England, noted that "the
art of cooking as practised by Englishmen does not extend much beyond roast beef and plum
pudding". And in 1814, one of the traditional English delicacies introduced to the
French by Antoine Beauvilliers in his Līart du cuisiner was plomb-poutingue."
During the Puritan reign in England, plum pudding
was outlawed as "sinfully rich." Traditionally in England, small silver charms
were baked in the plum pudding. A silver coin would bring wealth in the coming year; a
tiny wishbone, good luck; a silver thimble, thrift; an anchor, safe harbor. By Victorian times, only the silver coin
remained. In England these tiny charms can still be bought by families who make their own
puddings. It is also traditional for every one who lives in
the household to simultaneously hold onto the wooden spoon, help stir the batter for the
pudding, and make a wish.
Grandma Fisher's Plum Pudding Recipe
This recipe comes my husband's great-great grandmother. I
adapted this recipe to modern standards. I have
not yet made the recipe.
Fruitcake, Christmas Pudding
Yields: 2 plum puddings
Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 4 hr
1 cup granulated
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup milk*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 cups all-purpose
flour plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 cups raisins, finely chopped
1 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup nuts, chopped
3 tablespoons candied orange or lemon citron, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Nutmeg Sauce (see recipe below)
* 1/2 cup fruit juice and 1/2
cup brandy may be substituted for the milk if desired.
Grease two 2-pound coffee cans, two 2-quart pudding molds, or two 2-quart oven-proof deep dishes.
In a large bowl, combine sugar, butter, milk, eggs, molasses, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and flour; add raisins, dates, nuts,
candied orange or lemon citron, apples, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
Fill each greased pan 1/2 full of batter. Cover tops of pans with lids or 2 layers of aluminum foil. In a large pot or roaster,
place molds on trivets or a rack and add boiling water 2/3 up the side of the
mold; bring rapidly to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot or roaster,
and boil gently 4 to 4 1/2 hours (add more boiling water as necessary) or until
fork comes out clean when put into center of pudding.
Remove from heat and cool. Store in refrigerator, covered, until time to serve. NOTE: These also freeze well.
To serve, steam for 1 hour before serving to heat thoroughly. Unmold and serve hot with Nutmeg Sauce.
Yields 2 puddings.
2/3 cup granulated sugar*
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* Brown sugar may be substituted for the granulated sugar if desired.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add boiling water and cook, stirring
constantly, 3 minutes until ingredients are well blended.