Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Puddings

The history of different foods can usually be quite interesting. Plum pudding, incidentally, has nothing to do with plums. Puddings were originally a way of preserving meat and fruit through the winter. According to Wikipedia:
Although it took its final form in Victorian England, the pudding's origins can be traced all the way back to the 1420s, to two sources. It emerged not as a confection or a dessert at all, but as a way of preserving meat at the end of the season. Because of shortages of fodder, all surplus livestock was slaughtered in the autumn. The meat was then kept in a pastry case along with dried fruits acting as a preservative. The resultant large "mince pies" could then be used to feed hosts of people, particularly at the festive season. The chief ancestor of the modern pudding, however, was the pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction originating in Roman times. This was prepared in a large cauldron, the ingredients being slow cooked, with dried fruits, sugar and spices added.

The earliest reference to the "standing pottage" dates to 1420, a dish of preserved veal, mutton or chicken, thickened with bread, reddened with sandalwood and full of currants. By the time of Elizabeth I, prunes were added to this basic concoction. This became so popular that the dish was known from this point forward as Plum Pottage.

By the eighteenth century, as techniques for meat preserving improved, the savoury element of both the mince pie and the plum pottage diminished as the sweet content increased. The mince pie kept its name though the pottage was increasingly referred to as plum pudding. Although the latter was always a celebratory dish it was originally eaten at the Harvest Festival, not Christmas. It is not until the 1830s that the cannon-ball of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly, makes a definite appearance, more and more associated with Christmas. It appears that Eliza Acton was the first to refer to it as "Christmas Pudding" in her cookbook.

HERE is a recipe, and HERE. Plum pudding is something that needs to be made days in advance, so planning ahead is good. Share

2 comments:

alaughland said...

I am sure Sweeny Todd was well aware of these methods.

elena maria vidal said...

Ugh. I never cared for "Sweeney Todd."