Thursday, August 4, 2016

Dried Peach Pudding and a Pudding Primer

Dried Peach Pudding
The following recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations.

Dried Peach Pudding
1 lb. of dried peaches, ¾ lb. of Beef Suet, shred very fine, half a nutmeg, a tea cup full of brown sugar, a little salt, 4 eggs, three spoonfuls of cream & 4 of flour; a wine glass of Brandy –mix these together, tie it up in a cloth & let it boil 3 hours –serve it with wine and sugar sauce. 
(Note: A recipe adaptation is at bottom of this page.)

About Pudding
To Americans, pudding refers to a milk custard made with a starch  to set it and flavored most commonly with chocolate, vanilla, banana, or butterscotch, among other flavors. 

Chocolate Pudding
(source: Wikimedia Commons)
Americans may also recognize Bread Pudding as a delicious sweet baked dessert dish made by soaking stale bread in a milk and egg custard and served warm topped with a sauce. The recipe highlighted in this post for Dried Peach Pudding is  a variation on this type of pudding but its history goes a long way back and actually traces its origins to that of sausage.

History of Pudding 
Sweet, delicious and succulent bread puddings have rather savory and pragmatic origins as sausages or blood puddings. To get started, let's look at the origins of the word pudding. The English word pudding comes from the French word, boudin. Boudin comes from the Latin word for sausage, botellus. Therefore, the names boudin and pudding originally referred to blood sausages. These types of recipes go back as far as ancient Rome; here is one from the famous Roman cookbook by Apicius: 

"Blood sausage is made as follows: 6 hard-boiled egg yolks, finely chopped pine kernels mixed with onion, finely sliced leek. Mix raw blood with finely ground pepper and fill a pig's intestine with this. Add wine and liquamen and cook." 

Though these types of puddings go back to the ancient Romans and Greeks, documentary evidence proves that versions of them known as black puddings, white puddings, and haggis, were definitely quite popular in the Middle Ages in Britain. These puddings were  made by stuffing animal skin casings (intestines) with a filling usually containing some type of grain (flour, oatmeal, or groats which are hulled kernels of grains such as wheat, barley, oat, rye) mixed with fat, herbs and spices, animal blood and/or animal offal. 

Black puddings contain animal blood (pig blood being most popular), fat (suet), and oatmeal stuffed in animal intestine casings. White puddings are basically the same as black but without the blood. Scotland is famous for its haggis, a pudding that contains chopped sheep's heart, liver, and lungs, mixed with oatmeal, suet, and flavorings that are then stuffed into an animal stomach. These dishes are still popular today in Britain, however, nowadays artificial casings can be used in place of real animal casings.

By the 17th century, the British had perfected a number of different methods of making puddings. While animal casings, or "skins or guts" as they were often referred to in period recipes, were still often used, by this time they could also be replaced with a cloth pudding bag tied closed at the top with a string and placed in a pot of water to steam.  The earliest record of a pudding cloth being used in a recipe in print is from a 1615 British recipe for a suet pudding called a Cambridge Pudding. Here is that recipe from John Murrell's A New Booke of Cookerie (London):

A Cambridge Pudding.

SEarce grated Bread through a Cullinder,
mince it with Flower, minst
Dates, Currins, Nutmeg, Sinamon,
and Pepper, minst Suit, new Milke
warme, fine Sugar, and Egges: take
away some of their whites, worke all
together. Take halfe the Pudding on
the one side, and the other on the other 
side, and make it round like a loafe. 
Then take Butter, and put it in the 
middest of the Pudding, and the other 
halfe aloft. Let your liquour boyle, 
and throw your Pudding in, being 
tyed in a faire cloth: when it is boyled 
enough cut it in the middest, and so 
serue it in.

The nursery rhyme The Cat and the Pudding String references this culinary technique:

Sing, sing, what shall I sing?

The cat's run away with the pudding string,
Do, do, what shall I do?
The cat's run away with the pudding too.
Sing, sing, what shall I sing?
Cat's run away with the pudding-string!
Do, do, what shall I do?
The cat has bitten it quite in two.
Sing sing, what shall I sing? 
The cat has eat[en] the pudding-string
Do, do, what shall I do? 
The cat has bit[ten] it quite in two.

By the 18th and 19th centuries the term pudding referred to a wide variety of recipes that could be cooked in a wide variety of ways.  Lots of options were available. Sweet and/or savory ingredients were often mixed together, the fillings could be stuffed into animal casings, cloths, or moulds to be boiled or steamed, or they could be encased in pastry crusts and baked. 

Here are several pudding recipe variations from just one British cookbook from 1737, The Whole Duty of a Woman:  

Starch and Milk Puddings
Eventually, starches, such as sago or tapioca which became popular in the 19th century, were used to replace the bread, flour or grain in the pudding recipes; this is most likely the basis for the cornstarch-rich American commercially produced style of pudding. Here is a recipe for a sago-based pudding from an American cookbook The New England Economical Housewife by Esther Allen Howland published in 1845:

Though these types of milk puddings became popular with the advent of commercially produced starch, versions of them were made prior that time by using protein-rich eggs as the thickening agent and therefore should be called, more accurately, custard. Like other types of puddings, recipes for custards have a long history and actually reach back in time to the Middle Ages (almond puddings/custards being very popular then) and likely even earlier. Americans would recognize this type of custardy pudding as a the type of filling found in pumpkin pie which should accurately be called a "pumpkin pudding in a paste." The same can be said for lemon puddings, sweet potato puddings, white potato puddings, and a whole lot of other "puddings in a paste". 

Brits Say Pudding/Americans Say Dessert

It is also important to note that the term pudding is also a British term that is used to denote the sweet course at the end of the meal. Therefore, this usage of the word pudding did not necessarily mean a pudding such as the ones just described; instead, it could mean anything from fresh fruit to gelatin or cake, and everything in between! Of course, Americans would just call this dessert.

About Suet
Historically, suet is a key ingredient often found in recipes for puddings and many other pastries such as dumplings and pie crusts. Suet is the fat found around the kidney of a cow. I would love to be able to advise you to substitute this for another fat such as shortening, vegetarian suet, or butter; however, the end result is just not the same. Therefore, my advice to you is make this recipe with suet or don't make it at all.  The reason there is no substitute is that suet has more fat, less water, and that results in a higher melting point than any other fat. The end result is that suet yields the moistest and most luscious pudding possible.

Sourcing Suet: To reiterate, suet is the hard fat found around the kidney of the cow, not steak fat trimmings. It needs to be picked through to remove the membranes and then melted and allowed to cool and harden. Before the Atoro Brand first started marketing a recipe-ready shredded suet in 1893, the home cook needed to process the suet from scratch. I have done this and can testify that it is a laborious and messy job. I am very glad I can buy the Atoro product. American grocery stores do not sell this product but, thankfully, Americans can order it on Amazon. Note: The Atoro Brand contains wheat.

Dried Peach Pudding: Modern Recipe Adaptation


  • 1/4 + 2 Tablespoons Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 16 Ounces Dried Peaches, Chopped in 1/2" Pieces
  • 1 Teaspoon Grated Nutmeg
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1.5 Boxes (350 Grams) Atoro Brand Shredded Suet 
  • ¾ Cup Brown Sugar
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 Cup Brandy

1.  Grease a the inside cavity and bottom of the lid of a 2 liter size pudding mold with lid pictured here:

2.  Mix the chopped peaches with 2 tablespoons of the flour. Set aside.

3.  In a large mixing bowl, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour, nutmeg, and salt and whisk together. Then, add the suet and beat with an electric mixer until well-blended. Add the brown sugar, eggs, cream, and brandy. Beat to blend. Then add the chopped peaches and mix until the peaches are evenly distributed.
4.  Spoon the batter into the prepared pudding mold. Place a piece of parchment paper over the top and then secure the lid on top. 

5.  Place the pudding mold in a large stock pot (a canner pot works well) that has a rack on the bottom so that the mold doesn't touch the bottom of the pot.  Fill the pot with water to about1/2 of the way up the pudding mold. If the mold starts to float, you have filled it too much. Place a lid on the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and steam for about 2 hours, or until a knife inserted in the middle of it comes out clean. 

6.  Remove the pudding from the mold. A bit of the melted suet may be sitting on top of the pudding. You can drain it off before sliding the pudding out of the mold. Serve the pudding warm in slices covered with Wine and Sugar Sauce (recipe below).

Wine and Sugar Sauce
(Source: The Kentucky Housewife by Mrs. Lettice Bryan, 1839) 

Melt or draw half a pound of butter, and stir into it immediately, while warm, three gills of white wine, three table-spoonfuls of powdered sugar, and a grated nutmeg. Serve it up with any kind of boiled puddings that have in them flour, butter, or grated bread.

Modern Recipe Adaptation: Wine and Sugar Sauce


  • 4 Ounces (2 Sticks) Butter
  • 3/4 Cup White Wine
  • 2 Tablespoons Confectioner's Sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg 

1.  Melt butter in a saucepan. Strain the melted butter through a fine mesh sieve to remove the milk solids. Return it to the sauce pan.

2.  Add the wine, sugar, and nutmeg to the butter in the sauce pan. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for about five minutes. Pour over a baked or steamed pudding.


  • Goldstein, Darra. The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, Oxford, 2015.
  • Davidson, Alan. The Penguin Companion to Food, New York, 2002
  • Oxford English Dictionary

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