I’ve never been a big fruitcake or plum pudding fan. But this year, I became a convert. My aunt sent our family the most delicious holiday dessert I’ve ever eaten — Lavinia’s Olde English Pudding with Peter’s Rum Hard Sauce. It was like a scene straight out of Dickens.
This delicious, moist plum pudding recipe was chock full of the finest raisins, candied cherries and rum, mixed with spices, and cooked in a cloth bag in boiling water. The rum sauce was the perfect compliment, chock full of butter, brown sugar, more rum and cream.
Hand-made in small batches, Lavinia’s Olde English Plum Pudding was created by Lavinia Parsons-Atwell, who arrived in Nova Scotia from Newfoundland at the turn of the century. Her pudding was the highlight of the Christmas feast and a family affair. Today the tradition is carried on by her granddaughter, also named Lavinia, who received the pudding pot, cloth and Grandmother’s secret recipe as a shower gift from her mother.
Plum puddings never actually contained plums. In the 17th century, the word “plum” referred to raisins and other fruits. Back in those days, little treasures such as silver charms, a coin, wishbones and thimbles were baked into the puddings as a sign of luck.
According to “The Gourmets Guide” by John Ayto, plum puddings were once common year-round.
“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 cuisiner was plomb-poutingue.” Normally, plum puddings are prepared up to three months in advance, allowing the flavors of the rum to mellow with age.
February 12 is National Plum Pudding Day, the perfect time to try out this historic dish.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon mace
- 3 cups golden raisins
- 1 1/2 cups plump candied cherries
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 cups bread crumbs loosely packed
- 2 cups butter or Crisco
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 cup dark rum
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup dark rum
- Sift dry ingredients. Mix in fruits and nuts and bread crumbs. Mix and blend in rest of ingredients.
- Pour into a greased 2-quart pudding mold.
- You may wrap treats in foil as a surprise inside the batter.
- Cover tightly and steam on stove in boiling water for 6 hours. Add more boiling water as needed until done.
- Unmold pudding onto a serving plate; serve warm with hard sauce.
- Beat hard sauce ingredients until smooth and creamy.