Plum Pudding–Without a Plum!


Just mixed the plum pudding.

Since childhood, I remember my Mom’s expression, “That’s plum good!.” She used it and still uses it to this day to describe many things that are wonderful, delicious, great, or just plain good.

Sometimes, I say it myself. I am afterall a reflection of the way I was raised.

“Plum” is old English for “good.” My mother’s English forebearers probably used the old English expression, “That’s plum.” And I am sure the “good” was added after the “plum” in later years for broader understanding for those who were not born in Merry Old England. 

Millionaire Martha Stewart’s mother died just a few days ago, and that’s not “plum.” I am sure it will be hard on “little” Martha and the family to experience the holidays without their mother. “Big” Martha was in her 90s. She left her family a legacy of wonderful memories. Many of those surround cooking, family recipes, holidays, and special dishes. It is hard to separate American culture or any culture from family, traditions, recipes, foods, and holidays. Those things we do together as family just describe who we are and create the backdrop for our culture.

With Thanksgiving just a breath away, I am busy today shopping, cleaning my fridge out to make room for a turkey and all the trimmings, and making the traditional “plum pudding.” I cannot make plum pudding without thinking about my own mother. This is an old family recipe that my mother made every holiday that I can remember.

Growing up, I was interested in cooking. As a teenager, I learned how to make the recipe. I still make it, and it reminds me of home, holidays, and special moments with my mother and family.

The interesting thing about plum pudding is that it doesn’t have a plum in it. And now that we know that “plum” means “good,” it is easy to see why the recipe doesn’t call for plums–it’s just good pudding. It’s not like pudding either, but more like gooey cake.

The other interesting thing about plum pudding is that it is made with grated potatoes and carrots, flour, raisins, sugar, and nuts. Very simple ingredients. Very easy to acquire. It is the kind of holiday goodie that the working class of old England could probably afford to make.

After mixing the ingredients, it is steamed on the stove-top for about two – three hours. A rich and delightful hard sauce, made with butter, sugar and brandy, is poured over the top when it is served.

I have spent the morning in the kitchen grating and mixing and measuring. The plum pudding is steaming on the stove now, and my house is filling with the scent of cinnamon, holiday goodness.

And that’s plum good!


Steamed plum pudding. This took about 2 & 1/2 hours.

Tomorrow I will make the hard sauce and show you a sample together with the pudding. Sorry no tasting, unless you show up for Thanksgiving dinner.

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