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February 12, 2010 / Sarah

National Plum Pudding Day


This is one of the holidays that I have chosen to not participate in.  Many of the recipes that I found involved shortening and it is honestly one of those ingredients that I refuse to buy.  That being said, I did find a recipe today that has no shortening, however, the other ingredients are kind of off the wall and I’m sure I would have a hard time finding them.

A little bit about plum pudding:

Plum Pudding, also know as Christmas Pudding, is a steamed pudding with dried fruit and nuts, and usually made with suet.  The mixture can be moistened with the juice of citrus fruits, brandy and other alcohol.  After initial steaming, the pudding is reheated by steaming once more and the dressed with warm brandy and ignited.  It can be eaten with hard sauce, brandy butter, rum butter, cream, lemon cream, or custard and is often sprinkled with caster sugar.

The plum pudding we know today took its final form in Victorian England but the it’s origins can be traced back to the 1420s.  The pudding initially emerged as a way to preserve meat – after the livestock was slaughtered it was stored along with dried fruit which served as preservative.  This is what we know of as mince pies.  The modern pudding is a stew of meat and vegetables which originated during Roman times.  The stew was prepared in a large pot along with dried fruits, sugar, and spices.

By the 18th century, the techniques for preserving meat had improved and the pies became less savory and increasingly sweet.  Mince pie kept it’s name but the stew became known as plum pudding.  Plum pudding was initially during the region’s Harvest Festival, but around 1830 the pudding became more and more associated with Christmas.

Traditionally the pudding is made on a Sunday four to five weeks before Christmas.  This day became known as “Stir-up Sunday” since everyone in the household stirred the mixture and made a wish while doing so.  Sometimes coins would be incorporated into the mixture in hopes that it would bring wealth for the coming year.  Wishbones, silver thimbles, or an anchor were also sometimes included for good luck, thrift and safe harbor, respectively.  The practice of including coins ceased once real silver coins were no longer available.

These puddings have very good keeping properties and the pudding will often be saved for another celebration during the year, such as Easter.  In fact, the pudding stays so well that it can be made the Christmas before it is actually eaten.

The recipe that I found is one of those puddings that suggests it be made a year in advance.  (All the more reason I couldn’t have made it today!)  Below the recipe are ingredient descriptions.  By the way, does anyone else think it’s weird that this day is in the middle of February instead of sometime in December?

Superb English Plum Pudding
From Epicurious

Fruit Mixture (to be made 4 days ahead)

1 pound seedless raisins
1 pound sultana raisins
1/2 pound currants
1 cup thinly sliced citron
1 cup chopped candied peel
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound finely chopped suet – powdery fine
1 1/4 cups cognac

Pudding

1 1/4 pounds (approximately) fresh bread crumbs
1 cup scalded milk
1 cup sherry or port
12 eggs, well beaten
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Cognac

  1. Blend the fruits, citron, peel, spices and suet and place in a bowl or jar. Add 1/4 cup cognac, cover tightly and refrigerate for 4 days, adding 1/4 cup cognac each day.
  2. Soak the bread crumbs in milk and sherry or port. Combine the well-beaten eggs and sugar. Blend with the fruit mixture. Add salt and mix thoroughly. Put the pudding in buttered bowls or tins, filling them about 2/3 full. Cover with foil and tie it firmly. Steam for 6-7 hours. Uncover and place in a 250°F. oven for 30 minutes. Add a dash of cognac to each pudding, cover with foil and keep in a cool place.
  3. To use, steam again for 2-3 hours and unmold. Sprinkle with sugar; add heated cognac. Ignite and bring to the table. Serve with hard sauce or cognac sauce.

Ingredient Descriptions:

Sultana raisins – Raisins from white, seedless grapes of Turkish, Greek, or Iranian origin
Citron – A large lemon-like fruit with a thick, aromatic rind.  The pulp is very sour and, therefore, inedible.  The rind is candied and used in baking.
Candied peel – The rind, or peel, of oranges or lemons that is preserved by being placed in heated sugar syrup.
Mace – A spice made from the dried, fleshy covering of the nutmeg seed.
Suet – The hard fat around the kidneys and loins of beef and sheep.

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