English Christmas Plum Pudding recipe c. 1600's
Yuletide Greetings My Witchy Readers,
A very traditional, ancient treat, at Christmas or Yuletide is the English Plum pudding. There is a belief that plums have never been used in plum pudding, as many dried fruits, especially raisins were at one time called plums, or plumbs, yet I hold off making such an absolute statement simply as there are precious few surviving written recipes from the time the first plum puddings were reputed to have been made in the 16th century or there abouts, and also, plums are native to Great Britain and are easily dried as are many fruits, such as cherries or figs, and could have easily, at one time lost in the mists of unwritten history have been used. They would certainly have fit the dessert recipe, with no issue. At a time when food was much more scarce than it is in modern times, every edible fruit, vegetable, herb, plant and root would have been consumed. If it was palatable, then even more readily.
In the very earliest days, the harbingers of the Christmas Plum pudding was a soupy gravy or thickened bread based soup/stew first known in the 14th century and called frumenty. It did have the same base ingredients of broth,liquid, beer with stale bread crumbs, dried fruits, at times, bits of meat which eventually found its way into the historically traditional mince meat, which at one time contained meat. well, this thick soup, eventually became the steamed cake, and it was first made, from folk lore, at a time when plums were one of the few plentiful fruits that were harvested in the late fall and would have been sweet and available for easy picking for the poor and wealthy. I find it, even without historical empirical evidence, very likely that the origins of today's Classic Christmas Plum pudding did indeed contain plums. Why wouldn't it? It was far more likely a fruit, than dates, or apricots, or even raisins in the 16th century.
This column is dedicated to magick and one will find, magick peppered in all food activities in early days, especially in the medieval days when people were very superstitious and based both good and bad events on the magickal and miraculous. So the preparation of food, the cooking of food, the serving of food, at times even how it is eaten or stored afterwards contained magickal, mostly folk magick tradition and belief.
Over 400 years ago, in England, magic was very highly regarded. Everyone believed in it, everyone knew it existed and everyone used it in one way or another, regardless of whether they were good Christians or not. Yes, at this time innocents, accused of the blackest of crimes, the darkest of witchcrafts and convening with Satan were being put to death after much torture and interrogations, in many areas of Europe. Yet at the same time, the belief in folk magic, of doing a little here and there to ensure a safe trip, a healthy winter, a prosperous year, were all understandably harmless and everyone could use a little bit of good magic.
We see that in the traditional Christmas pudding that became a staple at Christmas dinners all around England, from the lowest household to the King's banquet hall. Even today, one can find hundreds, really no two alike, recipes for this wonderful, steamed cake that is called a pudding. It seems, even today, any sort of dessert, served after dinner in England is called a pudding. Why this is so? I do not know the answer to that, but it does make any sort of dessert sound tasty!
Christmas plum pudding is a steamed cake, that is labor intensive and I just finished making one myself, for New Year's Day, and it is loaded with magickal bits and pieces, that are as traditional as the cake itself. Even the preparation has magick infused in it. I will tell you about the magick and give you my personal recipe I created, that you may wish to try, if not this year, then next.
First, you need to acquire small silver or gold trinkets. I like coins and silver bells, and this year I also added a small, delicate necklace with a miniature Faberge' egg. They all have a special meaning.
Then the ingredients for the cake, and brandy. The original recipe, made for the lower classes, originally the thick soup version, used stout, a stale, old, smelly beer of sorts. Very low class. Then wine was a next generation addition, then rum became popular for the higher classes, and when the recipe morphed into the steamed cake version which has now upgraded into using brandy, and today the very fancy (thank you very much!) may choose to use Cognac. The steamed cake version of course thickened the original frumenty into a cake by the additions of eggs, flour, spices, and beef suet, much more fancy dried and exotic fruits, from figs and apricots, to dates and added zests of lemons, oranges and other citrus fruits which were the luxury of the wealthy for centuries.
I chose brandy, and for my recipe you will need 3 cups, or just slightly less. No worries though, if you have non drinkers or children who wish to try some of this delicious ancient dessert, the recipe comes out alcohol free in the end. That's because you steam it until it is practically a ghost of Christmas past!!
These are the ingredients you can assemble once you have your silver and gold trinkets assembled and cleaned and sanitized. I put my trinkets in a mesh bag and put them through a cycle in the dishwasher where they are washed, sanitized and dried before wrapping in buttered parchment paper:
Christmas Plum Pudding:
Brandy/ Rum or Cognac (3 cups)
Part 1 : 1-1 1/2 lb dried fruits e.g. prunes, dates, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, apricots, golden raisins and currants
a cup and a half of roughly chopped almonds, pecans mixed
1 medium fresh apple chopped in small pieces
1 T freshly zested orange peel
1 T freshly zested lemon peel
Mix together in a bowl and then mix well with 1 cup of the brandy or alcohol of choice. Allow to sit in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, overnight.
The next day mix the dry ingredients together in another bowl:
6 oz flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 oz dark brown sugar
3/4 c white sugar
6 oz fine fresh bread crumbs
6 oz vegetable shortening (instead of beef suet)
Chop this finely together until the shortening is well incorporated into the dry ingredients. Then add to the fruited mixture. Chop it all together until well mixed. Then add 1 additional cup of brandy, and 4 eggs. Mix well, until the entire mixture resembles a chunky batter.
Then take the pudding pan, mine looks a lot like a bundt cake pan, and butter the inside very generously. Start to layer the batter into the pan. Take a moment and get another pot on the stove, with a few inches of water in it and start it on a simmer. When the cake is layered in the pan you will be steaming the pudding.
After you have put a good two to three inches of batter in the pan, take the trinkets, which you have wrapped in buttered parchment, like little packages, and lay them in the batter, maybe half of them in the first layer. Then cover with more batter. Then more trinkets, then more batter. You should not be able to see the paper from the trinkets.
Pick up the pan and gently drop it on the counter a couple of times, gently. This will tap out the air bubbles. Then place in the simmering water and cover with its lid or cover with aluminum foil. Then you wait. This will steam for 7 hours. Yes, 7 hours. Keep topping off the water so it does not run dry, as it steams. After the 7 hours, remove from the heat and take carefully out of the water.
Allow it to rest on the counter for a bit, maybe 20-30 minutes. No longer. Then take a skewer and make holes, gently, remember the parchment wrapped trinkets throughout the batter. Carefully make holes throughout. Pour the last cup or so of brandy over the whole pudding and give it some time, move it back and forth and tap it a few times and the brandy will absorb into the pudding. It is now going to cure, for a month or more, until the day you serve it. It can be served on Christmas Day, or New Year's Day.
It is usually started the day after Thanksgiving, or 6 weeks before Christmas. Some recipes are known to actually be started an entire year ahead of time. BUT nowadays, please always store the curing pudding in the refrigerator. Traditionally the curing pudding/cake was stored in a 'cool dark' place and that was because they did not have refrigerators in the 17th century. But this also allows for mold, or other nasties to grow and no one wants to get sick after Christmas dinner. So keeping it in the refrigerator is just lovely and assures you of a safe and fresh pudding.
The trick now is to steam it for yes, another 2 hours before serving on the special day!! So on the day you wish to serve it, take it out of the refrigerator, allow to sit on the counter for an hour or so, steam again for 2 hours and then serve it or bring it at this time to your party. It can be served warm or cold. At this point, it can be un-molded, and served with a hard sauce, which is not appropriate for children or those who do not consume alcohol as it is a thin sweet dessert sauce with more brandy in it, but it can also be served with whipped cream or even ice cream, which is not traditional but it is your dessert.
Cream, (beat with a mixer) confectioner's sugar with butter and then add brandy until loose and runny. This is not a warm sauce but many times, traditionally it is poured over the plum pudding and then set on fire with a match and the flaming dessert is brought to the table in a flaming presentation.
Now the trinkets you ask? I have not forgotten.
The the "tokens or favors" all have a meaning and traditionally in ancient times the trinkets may have had a less than desirable fortune for the upcoming year!
Traditionally, as early as the 1300's a simple dried pea or bean would be cooked into the cake and whomever would get this dried legume in their serving would be King or Queen for the day and be deserving of the nicest treatment with others serving them, and treating them as royalty for an entire day and night.
Then silver rings, or silver tiny crowns were added. These also would give the lucky person who received it in their portion the same day of pampered treatment.
Then coins were added, and whomever got a coin was assured of a year of prosperity or general luck.
If a bachelor's button was found by a single man he would stay single for the coming year.
If a thimble was found by a single woman she would be unattached for the coming year.
A ring, if a single person found the ring it meant they would get married in the coming year, if a married person found it it meant they would receive riches!
Nowadays you can choose whatever token or favor you wish and attribute to it the special magickal attribute you wish it to have. It is that easy. For example, for my English Plum Pudding this year I have placed in it the following:
A tiny Faberee' egg necklace the lucky recipient becomes the King or Queen for the Day at the New Year's Dinner and then the King or Queen for the Year at their home!!
Gold Coins - anyone who receives a gold coin will have prosperity for the coming year
A love token - will have love for the coming year
A Happiness token - happiness for the coming year
Silver bells with hearts - love, and happiness in the home for the coming year
Silver bells with Fleur De Lis - originally in France stood for purity and Christianity can now be used for tranquility, peace and serenity.
Silver bells with Celtic love knot work design - unending, unbreakable love, enduring forever
Beware there are, I have found, recipes out there that are called English Plum pudding recipes that have you make the batter, steam it and serve it. These are not real plum puddings, in my estimation. They must, must be cured or allowed to set for at least 3 to 4 weeks minimum, and some recipes up to a year. This rest period "marries" and mellows the flavors giving this complex, ancient recipe once served to the poorest classes to the richest of royals, it's distinctive, classic, special rich taste once synonymous with Christmas itself.
I hope you enjoy it, and may you have a Blessed Yuletide, a Merry Christmas, A Happy Hanukkah, and a joyous winter Solstice Season however you may choose to celebrate!!
Magickally Yours, Ms. Faith
© 2010-2017 Faith M. McCann. Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see www.enchantmentsschool.com or go to the title of tonight's discussion and click, it will link you to my school's website. Please note that the copying and/or further distribution of this work without express written permission is prohibited.
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