The Christmas plum pudding was a highly anticipated finish to Christmas dinner in the mid-nineteenth century. A tradition popularized in England, plum puddings were usually prepared far in advance of Christmas and aged for a month or even a year. The steamed or boiled pudding is composed of many dried fruits, suet, eggs and spices, and contains no actual plums. Many households had recipes for Christmas pudding handed down through the generations. Kate Manship’s cookbook Common Sense in the Household: a Manual of Practical Housewifery, by Marion Harlan, published in 1872, contains the following recipe for Christmas plum pudding:
The Queen of Plum Puddings.
1 lb. butter.
1 ” of suet, freed from strings and copped fine.
1 ” of sugar.
2 1/2 lbs. of flour.
2 ” of raisins, seeded, chopped, and dredged with flour.
2 lbs. currants, picked over carefully after they are washed.
1/4 lb. of citron, shred fine.
12 eggs, whites and yolks beaten separately.
1 pint of milk.
1 cup of brandy.
1/2 oz. of cloves.
1/2 ” of mace.
2 grated nutmegs.
Cream the butter and sugar; beat the yolks when you have whipped them smooth and light; next put in the milk; then the flour, alternately with the beaten whites; then the brandy and spice; lastly the fruit, well dredged with flour. Mix all thoroughly; wring out your pudding cloth with hot water; flour well inside, pour in the mixture, and boil five hours.
I can confidently recommend this as the best plum pudding I have ever tasted, even when the friend at whose table I had first the pleasure of eating it imitated the example of “good King Arthur’s” economical spouse, and what we “couldn’t eat that night,” “next day fried,” by heating a little butter in a frying-pan, and laying in slices of her pudding, warming them into almost their original excellence. It will keep a long time – in a locked closet or safe.