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“Now Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding”: Plum Pudding and the Celebration of Christmas in Nineteenth-Century America

“Now Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding”: Plum Pudding and the Celebration of Christmas in Nineteenth-Century America

Rachel A. Snell, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Maine

"Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered—flushed, but smiling proudly—with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top."

A major source was English holiday tradition, leading many American cooks to embrace plum pudding for the finale to their Christmas dinner and Christmas trees in their parlors (this custom was popularized by Queen Victoria after her marriage to Albert. He brought the tradition from Germany). A rich dried fruit, suet pudding that is well laced with brandy, plum pudding has been firmly associated with English Christmas celebrations for several centuries. Despite the name, most plum puddings contain far more raisins than plums. The fact that figgy pudding and plum pudding are one and the same suggests how little relevance the ingredients have to the name. Recipes usually included a combination of several dried fruits, most commonly raisins, plums, and currants. Liquor was the liquid of choice for most plum pudding recipes ranging from Madeira, whiskey, and a wide variety of homemade wines. The popularity of the Temperance movement would lead the development of Temperance recipes later in the century. Read More

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