Christmas pudding

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Steaming fragrant black cannonballs of suet, raisins, currents, spices, sugar, eggs, etc., lambent with brandy flames and top-knotted with holly, have made Britain's Christmas tables (and no doubt sometimes diners) groan since at least the eighteenth century, but the name Christmas pudding appears to be a comparatively recent coinage, first recorded in Anthony Trollope's Doctor Thorne (1858). The association of dishes containing mixed dried fruit and spices (and formerly also meat) with Christmas is a longstanding one, though. Most of them originally contained dried plums, or prunes, but long after these had been replaced by raisins the term plum lingered on: so traditional British Christmas fare included plum broth, a thick beef soup enlivened with dried fruit and spices; plum porridge, an oatmeal mixture with similar ingredients; plum pie, a forerunner of today's mince-pie, which as early as the seventeenth century was known as Christmas pie (‘It is a great Nostrum the composition of this Pasty [“Christmas Pye”]; it is a most learned Mixture of Neats-tongues, Chickens, Eggs, Sugar, Raisins, Lemon and Orange Peel, various kinds of Spicery, etc.’, M. Mission's Memoirs 1719); and of course plum pudding. Nowadays served only at Christmas, and so called exclusively Christmas pudding, this was formerly a common year-round pudding (albeit not always as rich as the festive version); indeed, in 1748 Pehr Kalm, a Swedish visitor to England, noted that ‘the art of cooking as practised by Englishmen does not extend much beyond roast beef and plum pudding’. And in 1814, one of the traditional English delicacies introduced to the French by Antoine Beauvilliers in his L'art du cuisinier was plomb-poutingue.

Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.

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