Dried Fruit Hashes, Puddings, and Cakes

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

Mincemeat pies and plum puddings originated as hashes of meats, offal, suet, spices, fresh and dried fruits, and sugar or honey before evolving into their modern, usually meatless dessert versions in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, Puritans and other strict Protestant sects in England and especially America freighted mincemeat pies with religious disapproval, equating the expensive spices with the Magi’s frankincense and the oblong pie crusts with Jesus’s crèche, calling this “food of the Papists” and “idolatrie in a crust.” See mince pies. The closely related plum pudding, with its traditional 13 ingredients, was identified with Christ and the Apostles: those who still celebrated Christmas ritually stirred the pudding from east to west in the belief that emulating the direction of the Magi’s journey would bring good luck. By the nineteenth century the religious food fight subsided, and plum pudding became an iconic conclusion to many Anglophone Christmas dinners, set ablaze with spirits and marched into the dining room with confident pomp, or fretted over by the literary likes of poor Mrs. Cratchit in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.