Plum Pudding Recipe

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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.

Plum Pudding


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.”

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.

Plum Pudding Recipe

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours

Yield: 2 plum puddings


1 cup granulated Sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature 
1 cup milk* 
eggs, beaten 
2/3 cup molasses 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
3 teaspoons baking powder
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 apples
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
Boiling Water
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. 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.


Nutmeg Sauce Recipe:

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.

Source:  Photo from Zarbo Delicatessen and Cafe, Auckland, New Zealand.

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