BVC Eats: Plum Pudding

BVC Cooks: UK vs US

Plum Pudding—but it has no plums.

For special holidays my mother used to make her English grandmother’s recipe for plum pudding. Who knows how old this dish was, or even this formula for it. But it comes from a time when central heating was not the norm and people didn’t bother counting calories or carbs because they burned them all of trying to stay warm. My sister got the notebook with all of Mom’s and Nana’s recipes in it. Since I have never made it, I don’t want it.

I remember the biggest bowl in the house, some flour, suet, molasses, raisins and buckets of dried fruit. And brandy. A cup or more of the good stuff. Probably a dozen eggs as well, but I don’t know for sure. When it was all mixed well it got stuffed and packed and pounded into a 3lb coffee can, covered with cheesecloth that she tied in place with a string—my sailor father was big on string and depended upon it like we do duck tape. Then Mom boiled the can for 3 hours, at least. It kept in the fridge for a month or more so it didn’t matter if it was overcooked.

While the pudding was boiling, Mom would make the hard sauce, cut together equal parts butter and powdered sugar and some rum extract—or the real thing but you need to add more butter to compensate for the extra liquid. Then she’d compress it into long rolls, wrap them in wax paper and put in the fridge. Just before serving she’d make up a heated lemon sauce, butter, sugar, more rum, cornstarch and water, and a hint of lemon juice.

At serving time we each got about 2 tlbs full of the pudding in a bowl—that is more than enough to fill you full unless you are a teenager who spent 3 hours a day, 4 days a week in the ballet studio—then a dribble of the lemon sauce and two slices of the hard sauce. No room for pumpkin pie after that.

Several years ago my big brother fixed Christmas dinner for the family. He bought a tin of plum pudding in London and heated it up while he made hard sauce and lemon sauce. I couldn’t taste the difference and there were very few left overs to nuke anything resembling a diet with a lot less work.


About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.


BVC Eats: Plum Pudding — 4 Comments

  1. I have found the actual plum pudding recipe! Big brother has made it and pronounces it fine. But he says it is worth conning your local butcher into saving some suet for you. Lard or vegetable shortening work but they aren’t the same.

    2 Cups Flour
    1 Cup ground bread crumbs
    1 Cup suet; chopped fine
    2 Cups raisins
    1 Cup currents
    1/4 pound citron
    1 grated apple
    1 grated carrot
    1 Tablespoon sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon cloves
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon allspice
    1 Cup molasses
    Mix the whole with warm water, not too stiff. Steam three hours – a coffee can covered with foil
    and tied with string will do. [I actually have Mom’s steamer.]
    Hard Sauce to Accompany Mom’s Plum Pudding
    Soften ½ to 2/3 cube of butter.
    Work in powdered sugar until moderately stiff.
    Add about 1 tablespoon bourbon, rum, or brandy.
    Roll in waxed paper and chill 24 hours.
    Lemon Sauce to Accompany Mom’s Plum Pudding
    1/3 Cup flour
    1/3 Cup sugar
    ½ Cup water
    Boil until thick and clear.
    Add water or milk to proper consistency.
    Add fresh or reconstituted lemon juice to taste.
    [Optional] Grated lemon rind.
    Do not heat too long or hot to avoid curdling if you use milk

    • If I’m making something like that for Christmas, I make black cake, from a modified recipe of Laurie Colwin’s. I haven’t made it in a few years, although the fruit is still steeping. I’ve had great complaints from work that I haven’t made it in a few years (because I make a tiny one for me and then bring the rest of it into work.) Since you steep the fruit for at least a month in a bottle of Passover wine and a bottle of Meijer’s rum, a lot of people at work stagger around for a week or so.

      Devra makes plum pudding. Then she cuts it into small sections and freezes them.

  2. The wonderful Townsends “Nutmeg tavern” YouTube channel just came out with a episode on Christmas plum pudding:

    They explained that ‘plum’ was often used as a word for sweet dried fruit in general, often meaning raisins.
    In the comments someone mentioned that there’s also a vegetarian sort of suet, available in the UK for sure – I have no idea if that would be available in the USA or if it would work in a Christmas bpudding like this.
    The Townsends shop for historical re-enactment stuff also has some of those oldfashioned, hard to find foodstuffs.

  3. I remember my mother purchasing and serving–with great halloos–canned plum pudding one Christmas. I suspect she did not follow the directions–it was not stodgy so much as… wooden. Subsequent experience of plum pudding convinces me this was not the goal.

    I’d love to make plum pudding, but I am the only real dried fruit fan in the family–I regularly make Jo Walton’s Aunt Beryl’s fruitcake, and then spend weeks trying not to eat it all (which, eventually, I do. Alas.)