Plum Pudding: food of the gold rush

Puddings were very popular during the 19th century. According to food historian Dorothy Duncan, the Danes introduced the plum pudding  to Great Britain in 1013.  The pudding first resembled a soup-like consistency. Eventually, the pudding became thicker as batter puddings were becoming more popular.

Pudding cloth became available  which allowed for easier pudding making.
The British developed hundred of pudding recipes. Here is a recipe for Plum Pudding from “The Dinner Question” by Tabitha Tickletooth 1860.

“To three ounces of flour, and the same weight of fine lightly grated breadcrumbs, add six of beef kidney-suet chopped small, six of raisins, weighed after they are stoned,  six of well cleaned currants, four ounces of minced apples, five of sugar, two of candied orange-rind, half a teaspoonful of nutmeg mixed with powdered mace, a very little salt, a small  glass of brandy, and three whole eggs. Mix and beat these ingredients well together, tie them tightly in a thickly floured cloth, and boil them for three hours and a half. We can recommend this as a remarkably light small rich pudding. It may be served with German wine or punch sauce.”

From A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes (1852)
Plum or Currant Dough Pudding

2 pounds of dough from the baker’s
4 ounces of plums or currants
pinch of allspice
pinch of salt
1 gill of milk


Mix all the above ingredients together in a pan; tie up the pudding in a well-greased pudding-cloth, and place it in a pot containing boiling water, and allow it to continue boiling for two hours; at the end of this time the pudding will be done, and may be turned out on its dish.

There are several stories of gold seekers celebrating Christmas with a ‘plum duff’ without the plums. Here is an interesting account from a traveller who noticed some unusual fruit growing near Boothroyd’s Bar near Lytton. Quite possibly, this fruit could have made a good substitute:

The leading feature [in this area]…was the growth of red wild cherries of small size but for the most part intense bitterness; in some cases they appeared to cover acres of ground. They are almost invariably surrounded by a wide fringe of wild filberts; one species of cherry, rather larger, are very palatable and juicy; they are black.

Prior to opening the Globe Hotel in Lytton, Louis Hautier owned and operated the Confectionery and Pastry Cook Store in Victoria. In addition to having the finest choice of bonbons, syrups and ‘luxuries unparalleld in the history of the country’, he offered Christmas Plum Puddings.