Plum Pudding
Cakes,  Christmas,  Culinary History,  Food History,  History,  Holidays

Plum Pudding: The English Treat

“But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone—too nervous to bear witnesses—to take the pudding up, and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose—a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.

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Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered—flushed, but smiling proudly—with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit said that, now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.”  A Christmas Carol , Chapter 3

I am so glad Charles Dickens included this scene in his Christmas Carol as it shows the charming Victorian custom of making a plum pudding for the holidays!
Plum pudding is a uniquely English tradition and it has a rather fascinating history. The recipe (or something very near it!) dates back to almost the 14th century. Many English people still observe the custom of “Stir Up Sundays” when the ingredients are all assembled for the plum pudding and put together with great excitement and ceremony. Plum pudding is also often called “Christmas Pudding”. It is what is meant too by “figgy pudding” in the old, holiday carol.
One of the reasons this cake is called “plum pudding” instead of “plum cake” is because of the way it is cooked. Once the ingredients are gathered, and if you lived in the olden days, your spices were ground, your fruit stoned, pitted, washed and chopped, the mixture was turned carefully into a pudding bag and Charles Dickens Christmas | Christmas Plum Pudding: steamed in a pudding basin for several hours. “Pudding” is also the English term for the dessert course of the meal whether you were having actual pudding for dessert that day or something else!
The tradition of serving the pudding with an alcohol heavy hard sauce is believe to have started in the Middle Ages though many desserts were often served with a dessert sauce before then. Maybe everyone finally got tired of simply enjoying the heavy pudding by itself and wanted something to help it slide down?
Making a “flaming plum pudding” as the Cratchit family enjoyed in Charles Dicken’s tale, was another lovely tradition. After the plum pudding was turned out, warm alcohol, usually brandy, would be poured over the entire cake and set aflame. With the lights out and only the glow from the fireplace and the flaming plum pudding as it was brought in for the family to enjoy must have been a very fitting and exciting ending to the holiday meal!
If you are interested in learning how to make your own plum pudding, here is an excellent video! Enjoy!

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