Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sugar Plums

Here's another dried-fruit preparation with a baffling name.

Sugar plums are one of those items that are common in Christmas carols and stories and yet are basically unknown to modern revelers. (Other examples: wassail, yule, and figgy pudding. Furthermore, I've never seen mistletoe before, and I just saw real holly for the first time a few weeks ago, at the farmers' market. I got excited, grabbed the leaves, and stabbed myself.)

My dictionary defines a sugar plum as a small ball of candy, and nothing more. There are not necessarily any plums in sugar plums.

The word "plum" is associated with dried fruit, and good modern dictionaries still give one of the many meanings of "plum" as "a raisin." As such, the most common manifestation of sugar plums is dried fruit and nuts, chopped, sweetened, bound with honey, and rolled into little balls. A good winter treat for Edmonton. We're not awash with the fleshy fruits that lend themselves to drying, like apricots or figs, but there are lots of cherries and plums to be had. Even if you can't find any from within the city, in the late fall the farmers' markets are always full of dried fruit and nuts from BC.


  1. I would love to see you include your recipes... like for the mincemeat... and this... though I completely enjoy the information - reading recipes is another hobby of mine! I learn a great deal from reading them.

  2. Did you see the Alton Brown Christmas special where they made wassail? Very cool. Now that I think of it, he may have also made sugar plums.

  3. Hi Tara! I haven't seen the Christmas special, but I've definitely come across the recipes from it online. I love that man. He's a revivalist, saving old preparations from becoming historical curiosities.

    That being said: Valerie, if you want a good recipe for sugar plums, here's Alton's.