Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Plum Pudding - (which has no plums and is not a pudding)

If there is anything more elusive than plum pudding, I am deeply concerned for mankind.
It began its confusion in the 1420s, in England (where else?) when it was used to preserve meat.
In Medieval Europe, it was not possible to feed livestock over the winter, so they slaughtered them all and then wondered what to do with them. Enter Plum Pudding, which in those days (or any other days) did not include plums. Furthermore, it was not a pudding and never was.
On a tangent: I have always wondered where they got new livestock from, in Spring, if they killed all the livestock in Fall. I think they tucked a few away and lied about it.
Did you know that it was the introduction of the lowly turnip that saved the livestock from a nasty end every Fall. They were fed turnips and nothing but turnips all winter. By February, the slaughter house probably was tempting after all.
But. Back to the main confusion:
The medieval folk were not happy about being accused of introducing plum pudding (or turnips) so they left a message that it was actually the Romans’ fault - them and their stupid pottage which later became known as pudding. But it never was pudding and still no one had thought to throw in whatever rotting plums were on their way to the compost pit, which was not actually a compost pit, but more on the line of a place to keep stinky garbage to feed to the pigs.
Now plum pudding in Roman times (we will leave Christmas out of it until Elizabethan times who also did not use plums in what was not a pudding), but really a mince pie. (No wonder nobody speaks Latin anymore. Even Romans didn’t know what most of it meant - certainly not the word for pudding, which was called pottage because it was a mince pie).
Let us try to make sense of the Mediaval connection. Romans started supper with fruit and spices mixed with their vegetables and meat, (which was going bad) i.e. mince pie without the pastry. Since nobody liked the Romans, Medieval folk put in dried fruits and custard with the meat and wrapped it all in pastry - but didn’t think to name it mince pie. Nor did the Romans. Hence, not only that which is not a pudding and has no plums is actually related to Creme Brule and sippets, which were used to sop up gravy, but were fancier than sops. Don’t ask me how, but that’s the way it is. It’s in the Book!
Take a pause and have some wassail. This only gets worse.
Stirred custard and sippets make a fool, a contemporary of plum pudding, which still was not a pudding. May I quote? “Some early custard tarts are only unlike plum pudding in that they were held together with pastry, not crumbs or meal. Malaches whyte, another kind of pastry, has a filling of eggs, bread crumbs and butter, but no plums. So a fully developed recipe for plum pudding could be developed from the above list of various possible ancestors by recombinations.” The writer goes on to say, “There is no need to say there could have been other ancestors; only that there need not have been any.”
You aren’t counting on a recipe are you?
By the time of Elizabeth I, prunes were added. This was so popular, it was called plum pottage (which has no plums and is not a pudding either). By the 1700s, the vegetables were dropped from the mince pie and plum potage became plum pudding - which it isn’t by any means. Besides, by this time, it would be more use as a cannon-ball than a dessert. I have always suspected the name for this heavy non-pudding was derived from the Latin word ‘Plumbum’, which means lead. And certainly, I have never met a plum pudding that wasn’t at least as heavy as lead. Also, it was served at harvest time, not Christmas.
This non-plum, non-pudding just can’t help being screwed up can it?
By Victorian times, smart mothers distracted everyone from asking what’s in it by saying it could only be served with holly on top. Now you know how kids are pretty hard to fool (sippets and custard remember?) So Victorian mothers put a six pence in the pudding and anyone who got it would have good luck for the next year - provided they didn’t break their teeth on it. The luck thing didn’t work, but the kids were so busy arguing over the sixpence, they didn’t think about asking what was in the plum pudding, which was not a pudding and had no plums.
I would give you a recipe but I am scared to. Besides, now there is a dispute over whether it is best made in cheesecloth or a basin. If you are halfway smart, you’ll buy one.
Pour yourself a stiff drink and keep the brandy you haven’t drunk while trying to make sense of all this. Pour the remaining brandy (if any) over the plum pudding, which is not etc and set fire to it.
Look, I know it makes no sense to set dessert on fire, but after all this history, you will want to set it on fire being as you can’t set fire to a blog.
However, since this week’s aim is to provide a recipe, or tell everyone where to hide the rest of the turkey, I will give you TWO, count ‘em, two recipes for what to do when the fire goes out.
You can serve this non-existent dessert with Hard Sauce, or Seafoam sauce.

Hard Sauce:
½ cup butter
½ cup whipping cream
1 cup sugar
boil slowly but don’t scald until it looks good (the recipe doesn’t say how long)
add 1 teaspoon vanilla
There are dozens of good recipes for hard sauce around, and I’d look for one if I were you

Sea Foam:
2 tablespoons butter (marg)
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
½ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
cream butter, sugar and flour together
add water and egg yolk and cook in double boiler until think
remove, cool
add beaten egg white and vanilla

There, now with luck, you will have forgotten all about the evils of Plum Pudding (which has no plums and is not a pudding) and that you barely made it through Grade 12 Latin and either buy a plum pudding or serve lemon pie.

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Have a great year!


DebH said...

Very humorous post Connie - I was giggling all the way through reading it.

After all that historic confusion, I think I'll stick with apple pie (which is really pie and does use apples...heh)

Thanks for the humorous history lesson. nm8r67 at hotmail dot com

Karyn Good said...

Oh my gosh, Connie. That was hilarious! This is one history lesson I'll remember.

My mother-in-law (who I love dearly) used to serve that thing with no plums and that was not a pudding, which she would light on fire and then top with a hard sauce, every Christmas. She has since stopped, thank goodness!

Janet said...

Loved the history lesson - not a very logical bunch us humans, eh?

Not a big fan of plum pudding - must be the lack of plums - but the rum sauce I remember getting poured overtop, sign me up. I figure anything covered in rum sauce is worth eating.

Great job, Connie. And don't forget to make a wish on the first bite of mince pie, which is not plum pudding, and, surprisingly, doesn't have any meat in it. Not even suet anymore - leaving that for the birds :)

Linda Sandifer said...

I really enjoyed this post! I have actually made something similar to (well, maybe) a plum pudding that my mother always made called "Suet Pudding." Now it is called "Steamed Carrot Pudding." Despite its unbecoming name, it is really very good (served with a warm sugar sauce flavored with lemon). The year I made it, I thought it would be nice to carry on the family tradition. Everybody loved it, but it was such an ordeal, I haven't made one since. And, it isn't a pudding either, more of a steamed cake. Anyway, thanks for the history lesson! It was great.

Lu said...

Very good! I used to get confused by the Brits who called every dessert "pudding", or even "pudd", when it bore no resemblance to the stuff out of the Jello box. I have owned a Plum Pudding basin, complete with snap-on lid for years and have yet to risk it. I'll stick to my mincemeat (with meat) and fruitcake (marinated in Cdn whiskey).
lulunau at myfairpoint dot net

connie said...

Dear Deb -
Glad you got a giggle or two.
Only the wise eat apple pies.
My Mom used to make it every year and I haven't decided whether to forgive her or not.
She was honest in that she called it suet pudding, which actually had suet - but was not a pudding etc
Have a great New Year

connie said...

Your reply was hilarious.
Was it threats that stopped her or common sense?
Happy 2010 - may all your writing be successful

connie said...

Hi Janet,
Your weather is every bit as confusing as mincepiepuddingwithoutsuetwhichisn't.
Rum sauce? okay, but I prefer not ruining perfectly good rum, which said I am quaffing between replies.
Dark Navy. That's were it's at and nuts to the pudding - which it also doesn't have
May Lady Belles bells be on a cash register in 2010 plus anything else you wished for on the first bite of mince pie
(oh sure. NOW you tell me!)

connie said...

Dear Linda,
I am glad you enjoyed the post.
My mother called it suet pudding too. Think I like plum pudding better though - eating suet isn't an attractive thought no matter how good it is. And steamed carrot pudding, which is actually a cake and no longer has suet in it doesn't sound as tasty.
I haven't had the nerve to try it yet. Bravo for you!It is the steaming part that worries me. I have always approached my pressure cooker as I would a madman strapped with dynamite and his hand on the button.
The lemon sauce sounds good. Think I will try it on the remainder of the you-know-what.
Have a terrific New Year

connie said...

Dear Lu,
I think the Brits only call all desserts pudd because they are not all that confident about spelling dessert, as opposed to desert, which doesn't have any pudding in it - or maybe they are plain stubborn. What relatives I have left there would certainly prove my second conclusion.
I too have a proper basin for the occasion but the odds of my ever using it are nil to no way. On the other hand, Linda did it and lived to tell the tale....
No. Co-op sells a nice one.
Actually, I love the stuff!
May you have a super new year - with or without pudding etc

Jana Richards said...

Hey Connie, thanks for the crazy history lesson and the great recipes. Happy New Year!


connie said...

Hey Jana
Likewise I am sure.
Have the best of New Years

April said...

Enjoyed the post. How funny.

Prairie Chicks Write Romance said...

Hi April
Glad you enjoyed the nonsense! Actually, the history part is true except for the no more vegetables part. There are still carrots in that which isn't and hasn't and is plum delicious!
p.s. have a first rate 2010

Silver James said...

ROFLMAO, Connie! I have a Canadian friend who commented that he and his dad shared a plum pudding for Christmas dinner, and being somewhat familiar, I simply nodded and added that I hoped they enjoyed it. Now, in catching up with the chicks today, I read this! I snorted things out my nose not meant to be snorted while doing so!

Oh yeah. That leftover sangria is looking pretty darn good about now!

silverjames @ swbell dot net