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Plum Pudding

What is plum pudding anyway? It’s somewhat of a misnomer because it doesn’t actually have plums in it and it isn’t the spoonable custardy pudding we know in the modern U.S. So let’s travel back in time to 17th century England. The word “plum” just meant any dried fruit and the word “pudding” referred to a dessert. So in modern American English, I suppose we’d call it “dried fruit dessert”. But that doesn’t sound as appetizing as plum pudding, does it? Back then, puddings were desserts that were tied up in a cloth and boiled in a pot of water. This type of dessert was more common among the lower class because many of them didn’t have ovens, so this made for a nice dessert that only required a fire and a pot for cooking. It wasn’t until the 1830s that plum pudding as we know it today came around. It was then that it also took on the name Christmas Pudding.

Many of the recipes I post here on this blog are quick and/or easy. This one is mostly easy, but definitely not quick. You basically need to plan on being home all day to tend it. I boiled mine for about 7 hours before I took it out. It cracked a bit upon unmolding, as you can see. They can be tricky to unmold, but with a little nudging and patience it should come out just fine. If you end up with some cracking, just add some icing or powdered sugar to cover it. Or just let it be and say it is what it is. It’ll still taste the same.

You can use a steamed pudding mold if you have one. I have one, but I opted to not use it for this pudding because I wanted a more traditional plum pudding shape. So I used a glass mixing bowl I have that holds about 4 cups. You can use whatever you want, just make sure it’s heat proof.

Traditionally, puddings of this nature call for suet, which is a hard white fat found on the kidneys of farm animals. That doesn’t really sound appetizing to me, let alone I have no idea where to find some. So in this recipe I’ve used butter instead. I’m sure you could also use shortening if you’d like.

This pudding really is good, by the way. I haven’t talked about the flavor of it yet, but the dried fruits (I used a combination of dried cranberries, dried cherries, and golden raisins) add a nice tartness that blends well with the sugar in the cakey part of it. I topped it with a simple thick glaze (maybe too thick) of powdered sugar and heavy cream. And then, of course (because tradition) a sprig of holly (artificial will do) on top.

Plum Pudding

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces (shortening could also be used)
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 2 cups flour, divided
  •  2 cups dried fruits of your choice (I used a blend of dried cranberries, dried cherries, and golden raisins)
  • 3/4 cup candied citron

Instructions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs lightly until they are light in color and foamy. Add the butter pieces and sugar.
  2. Mix in the lemon juice, nutmeg, and allspice.
  3. Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, stirring until fully combined.
  4. In a large bowl, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour along with the dried fruits and citron. Mix to coat all the fruit with flour. This will help the fruit pieces stay separate.
  5. Add the floured fruit to the egg/sugar/flour mixture and mix to combine thoroughly.
  6. Grease a bowl large enough to put your pudding in. Make sure it’s coated well so the pudding doesn’t stick to it when you’re ready to unmold. (You can also use a steamed pudding mold if you’d like.)
  7. Spoon the pudding batter into the mold. You’ll probably have to push it down with a spoon to get it all the way in. The batter is pretty stiff.
  8. Cover the bowl completely in aluminum foil. I put one piece on top, then two pieces on the bottom coming up the sides. Cover it however you like, just make sure water won’t leak into the pudding.
  9. Place the pudding in a large pot and fill with water to about 1/2 to 2/3 up the sides of the pudding mold. You don’t want it over the top because the risk of water getting in it is greater.
  10. On the stovetop, bring it to a soft boil. Too hard of a boil could cause water to bubble up to high and get in.
  11. Boil for at least 6 hours. You may need to boil it for 7 or 8. Keep an eye on it so the water doesn’t get too low. Keep another pot of water boiling on the stove so you can add that to the pudding pot when the water level gets below 1/2 up on the pudding mold (every half hour or so). Adding cold or warm water will slow down the cooking.
  12. Boil 6-8 hours or until done. I stuck a skewer through the top of mine and when it came out clean, I deemed it done.
  13. Remove the mold from the pot and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. Carefully unmold by putting a plate on top of the mold, then flip it upside down. Gently pull the mold off. Mine took a bit of nudging with a butter knife between it and the sides of the bowl, but it eventually let loose and came out.
Recipe adapted from Our Heritage of Health.

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