Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Plum Puddings: Inspiring a Love of Suet

Plum Pudding

Recipe Provenance
The following recipes come 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.

The Recipes and Directions
Note: A plum pudding refers to a pudding containing any dried fruit, not necessarily plums. As a matter of fact, it's very hard to find historic plum pudding recipes that actually list plums as an ingredient; those puddings tend to be called Prune or Damson Puddings.

Plum Pudding (Mrs. H)
1 lb. of stoned plums, 1 lb. currants 1 lb. of sugar, 1 lb. bread, 1 lb. suet 1 lb. eggs 1 nutmeg, a glass of Brandy, 3 spoonfuls of cream, 2 spoonful of flour and a little salt. It will require to be boiled 8 hours. Serve it with wine & sugar sauce seasoned with mace or nutmeg. ¾ pound of these ingredients will make a pudding for a large company.

*fruit should be rubbed in flour to make it mix well. the cloth a pudding is boiled in should be dipped in boiling water, squeezed dry & floured when to be used. if bread tie it loose, if’s batter, tight over. the water should boil quick when it is put in & turn it frequently.

A Quickly Made Pudding
Flour & Suet, half a lb. of each, 4 eggs, a gill of new milk, a little mace & nutmeg—quarter lb. of raisins, quarter lb. currants mixed well together &boiled three quarters of an hour.

Directions for Boiling Puddings
See plum pudding. The water should boil quick when the pudding is put in; & it should be moved about for a minute, lest the ingredients should not mix. a pan of cold water should be ready & the pudding dipt in as soon as it comes out of the pot; then it will not adhere to the cloth.

Modern Recipe Adaptation: A Quickly Made Plum Pudding

  • 1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Mace
  • 3/4 Cup Raisins*
  • 3/4 Cup Zante Currants*
  • 1 Box Atoro Brand Suet (see below)
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Milk


  1. Grease a pudding mold (pictured below). Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and spices. Add the fruit and mix well, making sure each piece of fruit is coated with flour.
  3. Add the suet to the flour and fruit and use your fingers to blend in the suet, making sure it is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
  4. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs with the milk. 
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry.
  6. Spoon the pudding batter into the prepared mold and cover the top with parchment paper. Then put the lid on the mold. Parchment paper will be visible on the outside of the mold.
  7. Place the covered pudding mold in a large pot with a lid. Fill the pot with enough water so that it reaches about 3/4 of the way up the mold. 
  8. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, or until the pudding is firm when poked or until an inserted skewer is clean when removed.
  9. When you remove the lid, you will see that melted suet is sitting on top of the cooked pudding. Let the pudding sit in its pan for 10-15 minutes to allow the suet to seep back into the pudding.
  10. Turn the pudding out onto a dish.
  11. It can be served immediately by itself, with whipped cream, ice cream, custard sauce, a splash of spirits, or a fruit sauce. OR . . . You can douse it with plenty of spirits (brandy, whiskey, rum), wrap it up and store it for later use.
*Note: You can use whatever dried fruit you desire!

    Pudding Mold

    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 Antoro Brand contains wheat.

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