Who hasn’t heard the story of Tom Thumb Little Jack Horner (mea culpa, mea culpa!), who put in his thumb and pulled out a plum? Well that little nursery rhyme refers to plum pudding, or in British vernacular Christmas Pudding. Much like fruit cake, it is made several weeks prior to Christmas and according to an article sent to me by Bridgette Beal, on or after the Sunday before Advent. That day was called “Stir-up Sunday” as each family member in the home gave the pudding a stir and made a wish.
Plum pudding is well known for the silver coins and small objects hidden within the pudding to be found by the eater. Common objects were the silver coin for wealth, a tiny wishbone for good luck, a silver thimble for thrift, a ring for marriage or an anchor for safe harbor. These items have migrated from plum pudding to bridal shower cakes, oddly enough, and there’s a wide market on the internet for cake charms of all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Another tidbit similar to fruit cake is that once a pudding has been prepared, it is kept in a cool dry place for several weeks or more, with some families preparing two a year, one for Christmas and another for Easter. Before consumption, the pudding will be steamed for a few more hours to freshen it up.
Puddings used to be boiled in a pudding bag, which was basically a square of cotton or linen, rubbed with flour on the inside, then folded in such a way to hold the pudding ingredients in boiling water but not allowing water to get into the bag. It sounds tricky, and I found this site with pointers if you are so inclined to try it.
1 1/2 cups suet (may substitute solid vegetable shortening)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup seeded raisins
1 cup seedless raisins
1 cup currants
5/8 cups dates
1 scant 1/2 cup citron
3 cups flour
Mix all & steam 3 hours
I made plum pudding from a 1915 recipe just this last Christmas, and I can vouch for its flavor. It’s HEAVENLY! So much better than the apple and pumpkin pies we usually make for the holidays. It’s a hell of a lot better than fruitcake, too, so moist and spicy. Gosh I’m getting hungry.
Cat what did you use in place of suet? Just cos I’m not really thrilled about using it, heh.
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My Mom always topped it with a hard sauce. 1 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup cream… add rum or booze of your choice to flavour. Mmmmmm.