A summer pudding is a delightfully light pudding which is made by lining a pudding basin or charlotte mould with stale white bread slices, then filling it up with lightly stewed summer fruits and topping it off with a juice-soaked bread lid. I always enjoy unmoulding this pudding, to see how the blank white slices of bread have been tinted by the deep crimson juice. It looks like a fresh red wine stain on a crisp white tablecloth. When ready to indulge, serve with cream, or ice cream, whichever you prefer.
This pudding was also known as a ‘hydropathic pudding’ and was all the rage in the health spas of the nineteenth century. Its light bread casing instead of pastry or a suet crust made it the perfect treat for the health-conscious ladies.
By the end of the nineteenth century the pudding began to be known as a summer pudding, although it doesn’t appear in any of my pudding books of that period. I did, however, come across two recipes for summer pudding in newspapers from 1893.
In the only printed recipe I have been able to find for a hydropathic pudding, it suggested serving it with a custard, which doesn’t sound very light and spa-approved at all. But the booklet was sponsored by the classic brand Bird’s Custard, so we might have our answer there!
Line a greased pint basin with bread. Stew 1lb. of juice fruit with a little water, sweeten it, and while still very hot, put carefully into the basin. Cover the top entirely with bread, lay a plate on the pudding, and put a weight on the plate. Any juice that overflows should be kept to serve with the pudding. When perfectly cold and stiff, turn out, and serve with custard over.
The Liverpool Training School of Cookery,
Plain Cookery Recipes, 1902
The most important factor in making this pudding excellent is to use the best-quality white bread you can get your hands on. Cheap bread full of unnecessary additives will turn slimy and your pudding will certainly collapse. When the best products are used, the outcome is always outstanding. Any kind of summer fruit should do: raspberries and redcurrants are traditional, blackberries can mix it up a little, but strawberries should be avoided as they do not remain pleasant enough to enjoy after a couple of hours or a night of soaking.
Lightly grease the pudding basin and line with plastic wrap so that the pudding will be easier to remove when soaked all the way through. Leave enough plastic wrap overhanging the edges of the basin to cover the pudding.
Toss all the berries into a saucepan and heat gently with the sugar to get the crimson juices running, no longer than 2–3 minutes. When using frozen berries – which is fine and far more economical – do the same, but they will need a little longer to stew. Let the berries cool in the pan.
Cut a round out of a slice of your bread to fit the bottom of the basin. Now cut the rest of the bread in
Line the basin or mould with the bread, making sure there are no gaps, so the filling will stay in. Now spoon the cooled berries into the bread-lined basin, reserving as much of the juice in the saucepan as you can manage.
Cover the pudding with another slice or slices of bread and pour over some of the reserved juice so the bottom is nicely covered, nothing more. Reserve the remaining juice for serving.
Cover the pudding with the overhanging plastic wrap, then place a plate or a lid on it and put a weight on top. A tin of tomatoes is what I use.
Refrigerate overnight so the bread can soak up the juices nicely. When ready to serve, open the plastic wrap, place a plate on top of the basin or mould and invert.
Pour over the reserved juice and serve with more fresh berries, vanilla ice cream, icy cream or whipped cream.
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