Authentic Sugar Plums inspired by Allan Suddaby, a local food hero; I, too, am a “Suddabite“
Whilst reaching out to my Social Network for inspiration last month: “What is a Christmas Cookie you must have each year? I need some inspiration!” Tara Z suggested I try Sugar Plums and offered Allan Suddaby’s link. I had read it last year, and asked for his recipe. Back again this year, I find a link to Alton Brown’s recipe. Who would not be inspired by Sugar Plums at Christmas? Last year, I didn’t even know what they were. I hadn’t even thought about it, though was certainly aware of children with visions of them dancing in their head, and of Tchaikovsky’s Sugar Plum Fairy!
Thus, when I visited Alton Brown’s recipe, I was not overwhelmed. Boring. Dried fruit and the tiniest amount of spices. Time to do a little research. I find The Food Timeline helpful.
Authentic Sugar Plums are a “comfit” which was a confection traditionally composed of small seeds coated in dried fruit and sugar. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word sugarplum thusly: “A small round or oval sweetmeat, made of boiled sugared and variously flavoured and coloured; a comfit.” Apparently, the word plum traditionally referred to raisins or dried currants (Victorian era), not plums or prunes. Christmas pudding was called plum pudding, but contained no plums at all, as did the original Sugar Plums. Dried Currants and other more available and local small fruits were referred to as plums and used to make this confection and the traditional Christmas Plum Pudding. Sugar Plums were more or less the size and shape of plums and would have an aniseed or caraway seed in the centre: something of a licorice nature. In the 16th and 17th Century they often hung from thin wire and came in an assortment of colours and flavours.
You can find an old traditional recipe for Sugar Plums here.
This was one of the healthier sweets on the goodie plate this year and even Santa’s Elves loved them!
They are not a modern sweet. We are fortunate to travel quite a bit, and I have noted that in Eastern Europe, more so than any Western Countries, dried fruit is a highly esteemed confection served with tea or after a heavy meal, or worked into desserts in various combination for fancier fare. I recall shunning such offerings in the past, yet as I come to understand the importance of preserving and the value of a healthy lifestyle coupled with these significant traditions from our past, I can see I have truly missed out. My palate needs a little face lift, me thinks! I am not a huge eater of confections, yet at Christmas, definitely whip up far more than my fair share when right in my own pantry are many preserves that I plan to work more diligently onto the Traditional Plate.
Someone is sneaking away with a little goodie!