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 their garden.
(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 Gourmets 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 Lart 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.
Source: Photo from Zarbo Delicatessen and Cafe, Auckland, New Zealand.