What is a Pudding?: Addendum

Quite a while ago, I wrote a post called ‘What is a Pudding?‘ and it seems I made a few little errors within. I don’t like to be wrong, so thought I would put it right. The subject was a little essay on the origins of puddings – the boiled and steamed kind, which I argued was the proper definition of a pudding. I still don’t think I am wrong on that count, but I did accuse some puddings of being mock puddings:

So, a pudding is any dessert, or the name for the dessert course. Aside from the proper puddings…there are some that go under a false name: bread and butter pudding [and] sticky toffee pudding…are examples of this. Why are these puddings and, say, an apple pie not called an apple pie pudding?

Well it seems that I can answer my own question, at least in part. I was flicking through The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman by Gervase Markham which dates from 1615 (for context King James I of England and VI of Scotland was reigning) and it seems that some of the puddings that are baked today have their roots in the simmering pot. In fact a pair of my favourites – the rice pudding and previously accused bread and butter pudding are specifically mentioned. Their forerunners were cooked in natural intestinal casings – farmes – just like black puddings:

Rice puddings

Take half a pound of rice, and steep it in new milk a whole night, and in the morning drain it, and let the milk drop away; then take a quart of the best, sweetest and thickest cream, and put the rice into it, and boil it a little; then set it to cool an hour or two, and after put in the yolks of half a dozen eggs, a little pepper, cloves, mace, currants,dates, sugar and salt; and having mixed them well together, put in a great store of beef suet well beaten and small shred, and so put it into the farmes…and serve them after a day old.

To make bread puddings

Take the yolks and whites of a dozen or fourteen eggs, and, having beat them very well, put to them the fine powder of cloves, mace, nutmegs, sugar, cinnamon, saffron, and salt; then take the quantity of two loaves of white grated bread, dates (very small shred) and great store of currants, with good plenty either of sheep’s, hog’s or beef suet beaten and cut small; then when all is mixed and stirred well together, and hath stood a while to settle, then fill it into farmes…and in like manner boil them, cook them, and serve them to the table.

I was corrected on the sticky toffee pudding in that post… I wonder how many other puddings that are not boiled today once were? I shall go through the books with a fine-toothed comb and report back. More interestingly, I need to get my hands on some farmes and make these bad boys myself and see how they compare to their modern counterparts…

If you like the blogs and podcast I produce, please consider treating me to a virtual coffee or pint, or even a £3 monthly subscription: follow this link for more information.



Filed under bread, food, history, Puddings, Recipes, Seventeenth Century, Uncategorized

16 responses to “What is a Pudding?: Addendum

  1. Pingback: What is a pudding? | British Food: A History

  2. Love love love this post… the old recipes, the origins of the pudding, and especially that puddings were originally cooked in intestinal casings (like Haggis)


  3. Kathryn Marsh

    That bread pudding is in essence surely our modern Christmas pudding isn’t it? Certainly mine – as I think I mentioned before my family don’t add any flour or sugar. Though I use a basin not a cloth which produces a pudding too dense for our liking.
    Mum and I experimented with rice pudding recipe back in the 60s and decided we didn’t like it with suet so we substituted butter and it became a family dinner party staple. Don’t make it any more because husband ‘s mother was of the runny rice pudding school and he won’t even try it any other way 🙂 Again, just make it in a basin.
    By the way I have Lakeland metal pudding bowls, one and two litre, which we like very much though the two litre needs a very large diameter pan – I think they’ve discontinued it because of this.
    Stored apples need using up so its apple dumplings for dinner this evening


    • Yes I suppose the bread pudding is very similar to Christmas pud. I keep wanting to do some puddings but keep forgetting to order one omline (they are tricky to get hold in shops in the USA). Maybe i’ll just wait until I get back to England in the summer…


  4. Michael

    On the subject of the history of puddings, something which I have been wondering about recently is that I can’t find a recipe for steamed puddings (the jam or treacle sort) which doesn’t contain either self-raising flour or baking powder. Is this sort of pudding so young (self-raising flour and baking powder were both invented in the 1840s according to Wikipedia), or have the old recipes been lost to time?


    • It seems that steamed sponge puddings are a recent thing. Prior to that there are yeast of wisked egg raised cakes but you cant use those very successfully when steaming.

      Hi Michael.
      As far as I know, all other puddings are of the suet/breadcrumb kind, either as a suet pastry or just a mix of ingriednts like a Christmas pudding – they must have been really stodgy because i use baking powder in my suet pastry too


      • Michael

        A steamed sponge with no chemical raising agents can’t be quite impossible if this recipe [1] is correct. Mind you, I can’t immediately think how you could do the same thing with butter in it like the British sort.

        [1] http://nasilemaklover.blogspot.de/2011/10/ah-mahs-traditional-steamed-sponge-cake.html


      • The cake is raised by the air trapped in the whisked eggs just like a genoese sponge cake, so that’s where you get the lift from when it’s steamed.

        Now I might be wrong here, but I am sure i remember correctly, that we Westerners were a little late in inventing a decent whisk for this sort of thing and it requires alot of work to beat whole eggs to the ribbon stage. Balloon whisks appear surprisingly late (late 18th century), prior to that bunches of feathers or sticks were used.

        I’m not sure when those hand whisks with a handle that you turn appeared, but i know that I’ll only think of attempting to whisk whole eggs with an electric whisk!

        hope that sheds some light on it for you!

        thanks for your comments!


  5. Pingback: Spotted Dick | British Food: A History

  6. Cherry Austin

    Just discovered this site and am thoroughly enjoying it. Thanks for all your hard work! I keep seeing mention of “farmes” or “farms”. They’re obviously some kind of cooking pot: does anybody know what’s special about it?


  7. Neil, I’m not ready for farnes! I don’t even use them for my homemade sausage–I make loose/bulk/uncased sausage only. So you can be sure I’m not going to use them for my bread and butter pudding (just posted my Apple Bread and Butter Pudding, by the way).

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.