How Do You Make Sugarplums?

by AngelaJohnson

Most of us associate sugarplums with Christmas, either with "The Night Before Christmas" poem or with the "Nutcracker Ballet."

This picture is of commercially made sugarplum candy, but originally, the word "sugarplum" was another name for "comfit." Comfits are seeds or fruit that are sugar-coated. The earliest comfits were made from seeds such as anise, caraway, fennel and coriander.

Later, the word "plum" referred to all fruits. Comfits began to be made of fruits, such as oranges, lemons, gooseberries, cherries, currants and raspberries. Cinnamon, ginger, and orange rinds were cut into slivers and also made into comfits. The comfits were rolled in sugar and dried and became known as "sugarplums."

The image of commercially made Sugar Plums is from Amazon.

How Did They Used to Make Sugar Plums / Comfits?

cooking syrupSeeds had to be dried first before they could be sugar-coated.  One way to dry the seeds was to place them in a pan on a gentle heat such as warm coals. They used their left hand to rub the seeds as they dried so they wouldn't clump together.  Then they swirled the pan with their right hand to keep the seeds moving. 

Next, they heated sugar and water to make a runny syrup.  The syrup had to be kept warm so it poured easily, but not so hot as to burn.  

caraway seedsWhen the seeds were completely dry, they poured a partially full ladle of thin syrup over them. The seeds were rubbed with the left hand again to keep them from clumping and the pan was swirled with the right hand to keep the seeds moving and coat them with syrup.

Once this first coat was dry, they added another coat of syrup (called a charge).  They kept adding more charges until the seeds eventually formed a spherical shape from all the coats of sugar and being swirled in the pan. It was certainly a time-consuming process!  So the earliest comfits weren't round at all and didn't contain fruits such as plums, raisins, and berries.

A great article on how comfits originally were made - Historic Foods - Comfits

 

Photo of syrup cooking on flickr creative commons.

Photo of caraway seeds on flickr creative commons. 

 

Sugar Plums for a Victorian Chistmas

She is coating actual plum fruit with sugar and then drying them in the oven.

Life in Victorian Times

These books would also make a nice gift or could be used for school studies.
Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait...What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dick...

Making Sugar Plums Using a Food Processor

A Modern Sugarplum Recipe

(A Little Different From the One in the Video Above)


INGREDIENTS:

~  1 cup raisins

~  1 cup pitted prunes 

~  1 cup dates 

~  1 cup currants (or add a second cup of raisins instead)

~  1 cup dried cherries, dried cherries, or dried cranberries

~  1 cup walnuts or pecans

~  3/4 cup confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)

~  a small bowl of granulated sugar (I like to use super-fine sugar)

DIRECTIONS:

Grind the fruit and nuts with a food processor or meat grinder, and mix well.  (You can use knife to cut everything into small pieces, but it will be a sticky and slower process).

Slowly add confectioners' sugar into the mixture, working it in with your hands or wooden spoon until you can form 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar, then place them on a rack to dry for 24 hours. 

Makes about 4 dozen sugarplums.

 

 

Do You Make Your Own Candy for the Holidays?

Remember Betty Crocker Cookbooks?

The Ones Listed Below are Reproductions
Betty Crocker's Cooky Book (Facsimile Edition) (Betty Crocker Cooking)

Here is the complete cooky book-more than 450 recipes, dozens of appetizing full-color photographs, and many how-to-do-it sketches. This treasury of cooky baking embraces all ta...

$24.95  $14.25

View on Amazon

Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book

It's the book that started it all, the well-loved edition that first bought Betty Crocker cookbooks into American homes and hearts. Published in 1950, this ground-breaking title...

$29.95  $15.01

View on Amazon

Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls, Facsimile Edition (Betty Crocker Cooking)

Betty Crocker's classic cookbook for children is back-in an authentic reproduction of the original 1957 editionA whole generation of Baby Boomers grew up with Betty Crocker's Co...

$16.95  $7.66

View on Amazon

Updated: 12/20/2015, AngelaJohnson
 
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Do You Make Anything Special for the Holidays?


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Guest on 01/16/2015

burntchestnut, Thank you for this fun reminder of sugar plums! Both videos are interesting; I appreciate that one is historic and the other is modern.

sandyspider on 01/15/2015

This was interesting. I admit that I really did not know much about comfits.

Tolovaj on 12/20/2014

Comfits were popular in my country too, but I think they are slowly loosing it. There is competition everywhere and candy industry is no exception. Thanks for another charming article!

ologsinquito on 11/27/2014

This was so interesting. Of course, we've heard of sugarplums and associated them with Christmas, but we didn't really know what they were. Aside from the sugar, they look pretty healthy, as all of the spices you listed have medicinal properties.

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