A slice of damson pudding in a blue and white bowl with a spoon. In the background is the whole pudding.

Mrs Beeton’s Steamed Damson Pudding

A brown, round steamed pudding with a deep red/purple fruit filling sits in a white shallow bowl with a gold edge on a wooden table with a wooden chair and spoons in the background.

One of the wonderful things about living in America has been getting access to ingredients, especially fruit, that is hard to come by in Australia. My latest find was some damsons which are small, very dark, tangy plums.

Although they’re now hard to find, and therefore relatively expensive, in America, they were grown across Britain during the nineteenth century and many Victorians would have had a tree in their garden or been able to forage the fruit. The fresh or preserved fruit could then be used for cheap, filling desserts like this steamed damson pudding from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861).

The Recipe

DAMSON PUDDING.
1271. INGREDIENTS.—1-1/2 pint of damsons, 1/4 lb. of moist sugar, 3/4 lb. of suet or butter crust.
Mode.—Make a suet crust with 3/4 lb. of flour by recipe No. 1215; line a buttered pudding-basin with a portion of it; fill the basin with the damsons, sweeten them, and put on the lid; pinch the edges of the crust together, that the juice does not escape; tie over a floured cloth, put the pudding into boiling water, and boil from 2-1/2 to 3 hours.
Time.—2-1/2 to 3 hours.
Average cost, 8d.
Sufficient for 6 or 7 persons.
Seasonable in September and October.

 

SUET CRUST, for Pies or Puddings.
1215. INGREDIENTS.—To every lb. of flour allow 5 or 6 oz. of beef suet, 1/2 pint of water.
Mode.—Free the suet from skin and shreds; chop it extremely fine, and rub it well into the flour; work the whole to a smooth paste with the above proportion of water; roll it out, and it is ready for use. This crust is quite rich enough for ordinary purposes, but when a better one is desired, use from 1/2 to 3/4 lb. of suet to every lb. of flour. Some cooks, for rich crusts, pound the suet in a mortar, with a small quantity of butter. It should then be laid on the paste in small pieces, the same as for puff-crust, and will be found exceedingly nice for hot tarts. 5 oz. of suet to every lb. of flour will make a very good crust; and even 1/4 lb. will answer very well for children, or where the crust is wanted very plain.
Average cost, 5d. per lb.

 

The Redaction

Damson Pudding

227 g flour
85 g suet (or in a pinch, lard), cubed if necessary
142 ml water
450 g damsons, halved and pitted
113 g sugar

1. Put the flour in a large bowl and rub in the suet. Stir in enough of the water to make a smooth paste.
2. Butter a heatproof bowl (one that will fit into a covered saucepan). Roll out 2/3 of the pastry on a lightly floured surface and line the bowl with it.
3. Place the halved damsons in the pastry case, and top with sugar.
4. Roll out the rest of the pastry to make a lid, and lay it over the damsons. Cut off any excess pastry and pinch the two pieces together to seal the pudding.
5. Cut a piece of baking paper and one of foil large enough to cover the top of your bowl with excess all around. Butter and pleat both circles, then place them on top of the bowl. Use string to tie around the bowl’s lip, and then add a doubled piece of string across the top to make a handle.
6. Take a stockpot or saucepan large enough to hold the bowl. Put a saucer covered in a teatowel on the bottom of the pot and cover with water. Place the bowl onto the submerged saucer and carefully add water around the bowl until it is at least halfway up the side of the bowl. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Steam for 2.5-3 hours, topping up with additional water as necessary.
7. When the pudding is cooked, carefully remove the bowl from the saucepan. Remove the foil and baking paper, then flip onto a serving plate. Serve slices hot with custard, cream, or ice cream.

 

A slice of damson pudding in a blue and white bowl with a spoon. In the background is the whole pudding.

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