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Some Interesting English Puddings

1. Puddings in Skins

The oldest type of pudding is one that is boiled in an intestine or other membrane of animal origin. Deriving its name from the French word boudin, this ancient delicacy is the mother of all British puddings. Among its surviving relatives can be numbered the black pudding (bloodings), the haggis and the mealy pudding of Scotland, all of which are savoury foods. Extinct now, but once very popular, were leveridge, or liver puddings, an early form of liver sausage.

Click the hackin to see more

A Cumberland Hackin or Hack Pudding Click the Hackin to see more.

Among the sweet skin puddings was the hack pudding of the Lake Counties, a sweet haggis traditionally eaten on Christmas morning. This spicy concoction of minced beef, dried fruit, sugar and oats was probably the original Christmas Pudding. Almond puddings cooked in hogs' guts, rice puddings in skins, marrow puddings, bread puddings and even puddings perfumed with rosewater or ambergris, were all boiled in lengths of small intestine. They were all generally known as 'white puddings'. Unlike their first cousin, the sausage, these puddings were always boiled. Most were cooked a second time, usually by toasting them over the embers or baking them gently at the mouth of the oven.

Rice Puddings

Take halfe a pound of Rice, and steep it in new Milk a whole night, and in the morning drain it, and let the Milke drop away, and take a quart of the best sweetest and thickest Cream and put the Rice into it, and boyl it a little ; then set it to coole an hour or two, and after put in the Yolkes of halfe a dosen Eggs , a little Pepper, Cloves Mace, Currants, Dates Sugar, and Salt ; and having mixt them well together, put in great store of Beef suet wel beaten, and smal shred and so put it into the farms, and boyl them as before shewed and serve them after a day old.

From: Gervase Markham The English Housewife, (London: 1615)


Musk - one of the important ingredients of Lord Conway's Amber Puddings. Like ambergris, it found its way into many food items at this period. The 'kissing comfits' or muscadinoes of Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor were perfumed with musk and rosewater, for sweetening the breath of young, and not so young, lovers.

An oatmeal pudding. Its principal ingredients - cereal, fat and eggs, also formed the basis of cloth-boiled and baked puddings. Suet, the most commonly used fat, was not chopped too fine in case it boiled away and made the puddings 'too dry in the eating'.

Marrow Puddings in Skins

Marrow Puddings were made with the unctuous marrow fat scooped out of beef bones. Marrow was also an important ingredient in many other dishes, such as Tort du Moy, Marrow Tarts and some Whitepot recipes (see last recipe on this page).

'Fry them as yellow as Gold'.

Marrow Puddings were a much more common dish than the courtly ambergris puddings. They are said to have been enjoyed by Oliver Cromwell's wife Elizabeth for breakfast.

2. Puddings boiled in a Cloth

The trouble with making puddings in skins were the the intestines or stomach linings, which needed a lot of cleansing and were akward to fill. The method of boiling the pudding mixture in a cloth proved to be a much more practical alternative and became widespread during the course of the seventeenth century.

In the early days the pudding mixture was put into a deep wooden bowl, which was wrapped in a linen cloth. In a very detailed recipe for Quaking Pudding, Sir Kenelm Digby (1670) tells us how to do this,

'Then put this mixtion into a deep wooden dish (like a great Butter-box) which must first be on the inside a little greased with Butter, and a little Flower sprinkled thereon, to save the Pudding from sticking to the sides of the dish Then put a linen cloth or Handkerchief over the mouth of the dish and reverse the mouth downwards, so that you may tie the Napkin close with two knots; by the corners cross or with a strong thred, upon the bottom of the dish then turned upwards all which is, that the matter may not get out, and yet the boiling water get through the linen upon it on one side enough to bake the Pudding sufficiently. Put the wooden dish thus filled and tied up into a great Posnet or little kettle of boiling water. The faster it boils, the better it will be. The dish will turn and rowl up and down in the water, as it gallopeth in boiling. An hours boiling is sufficient.'

The pudding cloth became an important item in every British kitchen and a vast range of puddings were boiled in this way. Perhaps the best known are suet-based, like plum pudding and steak and kidney pudding, but there were many others. Some, like Sir Kenelm Digby's Quaking Pudding, were much lighter, as they were cooked without the ubiquitous suet.

A 'Quaking' or 'Shaking Pudding'.

This was really a light custard boiled in a cloth. It was so delicate it shook like a jelly - thus its name. Quaking pudding was dressed with a sauce or 'lear' made with butter, sugar and rose water and was frequently spiked with sliced almonds or orange chips, as in the photograph.

A large pudding tied in a cloth about to be submerged in a set-pot boiler with the poaching meat. These cloths or 'clouts' were given a coating of butter and flour before they were filled with pudding mixture. Suet puddings were tied loosely to allow the pudding inside to expand as it cooked, while batter puddings were tied tightly in order to keep their shape. The cloths were never washed with soap, as it imparted an unpleasant flavour and could spoil a delicate pudding. They were thoroughly scoured and boiled instead.

Pudding moulds, dome moulds and basins were also tied up firmly in a cloth.

3. Dripping Pan Puddings

The title page of The Whole Duty of a Woman (London: 1737) Among the 'above forty different puddings' boasted about on it title page, this extraordinary book contains the earliest recipe for Yorkshire Pudding..

The batter is 'fired' under the spit roast

A Potatoe Pudding to be fired below Meat

Boil and skin as many potatoes as will fill your dish; beat them, and mix in fome sweet milk; put them on the fire with a good piece of butter; season them properly with salt, spices, and an onion shred small ; put it in a dish and fire it below a roast of beef or mutton until it is of a fine brown; if you choose, cast three eggs well, and mix in with the potatoes before they go into the dish, to make them rise and eat light. Pour off all the fat that drops from the meat before you send it to the table.

From: Mrs Frazer, The Practice of Cookery (Edinburgh: 1737)

4. Baked Puddings

This elaborate cover for a baked marrow pudding was published by the cook to the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral in 1758.

Baked puddings were usually cooked in a dish which had been lined with pastry. Before the pudding mix was poured in, the rim was often garnished with a border or collar of puff pastry. As the pudding baked, this border rose and effectively retained the expanding pudding mixture. Some authors tell us to decorate the top of the pudding with lozenges, or flowers of pastry. Sometimes elaborate cut covers were used, as in this recipe from John Thacker's book. In another of his recipes , he tells us to fill the little holes in the cut cover with sweetmeats.

'Then put in your Marrow, in pieces, about the same Quantity as is contain'd in one Marow bone'.

The finished marrow pudding with its border of puff paste. The ornamental cover was baked separately.

Many Georgian cookery books include recipes for baked orange puddings. These were always flavoured with the peel and juice of the Seville or bitter orange. The peel was usually boiled to remove any bitterness and was then pounded into a pulp with a pestle and mortar.


One of the most wonderful baked puddings of the early modern period was the whitepot, a precusrsor of the bread and butter pudding, but even nicer. These bread or sometimes rice-based puddings were usually flavoured with rosewater and lightly spiced with nutmeg. There are recipes for them in most of the cookery books published in the 17th and 19th centuries. The one reproduced here is from John Nott's Cooks and Confectioner's Dictionary of 1723.




Please note: we are well aware that trading in musk is now strictly forbidden and we wholeheartedly agree with the ethics involved in the conservation of the rare musk deer. However the musk and ambergris we use at Historic Food was obtained in the 1970s from very old perfumer's stock and are therefore entirely legal.


1. Puddings in Skins

Two Stuart sweet puddings in skins - rice puddings and ambergris puddings

These 'sausages' browning on a seventeenth century gridiron, are in fact two different sweet puddings from the reigns of James I and his son Charles I. The large ring on the left is a Rice Pudding, made from a recipe in Gervase Markham's The English Huswife (London: 1615). The three smaller ones on the right are Lord Conway's Ambergris Puddings from The Queen's Closet Newly Opened (London: 1655). Both recipes are given below.

With its rich blend of rice, cream, pepper and dates, Markham's rice pudding is excellent, especially when lightly toasted over the embers. It would probably appeal to most modern palletes. On the other hand, the ambergris pudding is much more unusual, as it is flavoured with a blend of ambergris, musk and orange-flower water. When toasted or lightly fried, it look remarkably like a sausage, but has a sweet, perfumed taste. According to W.M., the compiler of The Queen's Closet, the recipe was given to Lord Conway by an Italian 'for a great rarity'. Sir Edward Viscount Conway of Ragley (1564-1630) was Principal Secretary of State to Charles I. His recipe is typical of late mannerist cookery at its most artificial. It is interesting to note how these puddings found favour with the ladies at court, as both musk and ambergris were considered to be powerful aphrodisiacs at this time.

The Lord Conway his Lordships receipt for the making of Amber Puddings

First take the Guts of a young hog, and wash them very clean, and then take two pound of the best hogs fat, and a pound and a halfe of the best Jordan almonds the which being blancht, take one half of them, & beat them very small, and the other halfe reserve whole unbeaten then take a pound and a halfe of fine Sugar and four white Loaves, and grate the Loaves over the former composition and mingle them well together in a bason having so done, put to it halfe an ounce of Ambergreece the which must be scrapt very small over the said composition take halfe a quarter of an ounce of levant musk and bruise it in a marble morter, with a quarter of a Pint of Orange Flower water then mingle these all very well together, and having so done, fill the said Guts ther­with, this Receipt was given his Lordship by an Italian for a great rariety, and has been found so to be by those Ladies of honour to whom his Lordship has imparted the said reception.

From: W.M., The Queen's Closet Opened (London: 1655)

Ambergris was a popular ingredient in both confectionery and cookery in the Stuart period. Though it smells of very little in its raw state, it releases a violet-like odour when blended with other ingredients like musk and perfumed waters. In addition to ambergris puddings, some early cookery texts have recipes for ambergris cakes. Lord Conway's pudding tastes like an orange-flower scented marchpane and is actually suprisingly delicate

To make her puddings, the young woman on the left is filling her 'farmes' or 'forms' (cleansed hog's guts) with a small funnel identical to that above left. This laborious method is what Gervase Markham refers to in one of his recipes, when he instructs his readers to 'fill it up in the farmes according to the order of good Housewifery'. Later kitchenmaids and housewives could take advantage of the much more convenient sausage forcer on the right.

A marrow pudding garnished with slices of Gervase Markham's rice pudding and Lord Conway's amber pudding. This particular marrow pudding, from a 1723 recipe, is flavoured with rose water and is therefore more practical for the modern cook than the ambergris flavoured puddings of Charles I's ladies of honour.

Marrow Puddings

Cut two French Rolls into Slices, and take a quarter of a Pound of coarse Bisket, put into a Saucepan a Quart of Milk, set it over the Fire, make it B1ood warm, and pour it upon your Bread; cover it close and let it soak, ‘till it is cold; rub it through a Cullender, mince half a Pound of Marrow, and put to it three Eggs well beaten and strained; then mix all together; sweeten with Sugar; add a little Salt, and a Spoonful or two of Rose-water, scrape in a little Nutmeg, put in two Ounces of Almonds well pownded; mix all these well together, put them into Guts, and tie them up; but do not fill them too full: Boil them in Water for a quarter of an Hour, turning them with a Skimmer; lay them in a Cullender to cool: When you use them, put them into a Pan with a little Butter, and fry them as yellow as Gold, or you may set them in the Mouth of an Oven. These are proper to garnish a boil'd Pudding, or Fricassy of Chickens, for the first Course, or you may serve them in little Dishes or Plates for the second Course.

From: John Nott, The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary (London: 1723)

The evidence from the recipes indicates that puddings made in skins were tied in various ways. Some were knotted in links like sausages, others in rings. In a recipe for marrow puddings in skins, William Rabisha, in The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected (London: 1661), tell us to 'fill up your guts, and tie them up like beads, being about the bignes and length of an egg (or something longer) you must give two inches scope to every one of these in the tying, else they will break, not having room to rise'. Leaving plenty of space in the skins for expansion, as well as pricking them with a sharp bodkin to release excessive air, were essential requisites to successful pudding making.

Skin puddings were once consumed with enthusiasm at all levels of society. Both black and white puddings were standard fare at sixteenth century livery company feasts in the City of London. 'Four dozen puddings hot' were served to James II at his coronation feast at Westminster Hall in 1685. They were often used to garnish the rims of dishes which contained a larger boiled pudding.

Perhaps the most celebrated of all ' skin puddings' is the haggis, Robert Burn's 'Great chieftain o' the puddin-race'. Although it is popularly believed to be a uniquely Scottish dish, the haggis or haggister was once eaten all over Britain. In fact the earliest recipes are to be found in English cookery books. Robert May (The Accomplisht Cook London: 1660) devotes a small chapter to them. It was originally boiled in the cleansed 'bag' (stomach) of a sheep, calf or even horse. It was enjoyed by rich and poor alike, one even being served to Charles II at Windsor in 1671. In Lady Barbara Fleming of Rydal's manuscript household book of 1673 there are two recipes, so it was probably a family favourite. There were sweet versions, like the hackin of early eighteenth century Cumberland, tradionally served at breakfast on Christmas morning.

2. Puddings boiled in a Cloth

Slices of plum pudding were placed on a gridiron beneath a roasting joint of beef to toast under the fire and to soak up the gravy.
Plum pudding and roast beef have both been potent symbols of Britishness for centuries. It may come as a suprise to learn that the two dishes were commonly eaten together. In fact plum pudding was served as the accompaniment to beef well before Yorkshire pudding took over this role. In the 1730s Richard Bradley, professor of Botany at Cambridge University was sent a recipe for a plum pudding which required boiling for six hours. His correspondent told him that if one of these puddings was 'cut it in Slices, and lay it upon a Grid-Iron, under Beef while it is roasting, and it eats very well with Beef Gravey hot'.

This 1860s plum pudding has been made in a domed 'kosiki' mould. Victorians liked their puddings made into interesting shapes and a vast range of moulds were available. Minton, for instance, manufactured a ceramic dome mould exactly the same shape as this pudding. During the course of the eighteenth century the plum pudding, a descendent of the hackin, took over from the very ancient plum pottage, as one of our archetypal Christmas dishes.

To Make a Quaking Pudding

Take a quart of sweet Cream, and near half a pound of Almonds blanched and finely beaten, then strain them, and boil it with large Mace, and season it with Rose-water and Sugar, then take ten Eggs, and five of their whites well beaten with small Cinamon, and two or three spoonfuls of Flower; mix all well together, and make it of the thickness of Butter, then wet a Cloath and rub it with Flower, tying your Pudding round therein, and boyl it in Beef-broath two hours; take it up and put a little White-wine, Sugar, and sliced Nutmeg into a Peuter dish, and put your pudding into it; then scrape some Sugar on the brims and serve it.

From T.P., The Accomplished Ladies Delight (London: 1675)

For the convenience of the cook, sweet puddings were frequently boiled in the stock pot, or in a kettle or cauldron with the boiling meats. This practice is referred to in the recipe above where we are instructed to boil the quaking pudding in beef broth. The flavour of sweet puddings boiled in this way is not effected.

Two nineteenth century pudding moulds. That on the left makes a dome pudding in the form of a beehive, while the other is shaped like a melon. These moulds were always wrapped in a cloth before being placed in the boiler, as in the illustration opposite.

Urbain Dubois' Apple Pudding (1861)

Apple Pudding

Prepare a mince of apples, as for a charlot; sweeten it, thicken it with a little apricot marmalade. Butter a dome-mould, line it with very thin short-paste; fill the hollow with the apples, applying them by layers, and sprinkling over each of these layers, a pinch of currants, and of Smyrna-raisins. - Close up the aperture of the mould with a round of the same; solder it with the paste of the mould. Butter the centre of a napkin, apply it to the top of the mould, and tie it underneath it. Plunge the mould into boiling water. Boil the pudding for two hours on a slow fire, but keeping the vessel covered and boiling it without interruption. - Drain the mould, remove the napkin, turn the pudding out on a dish, pour over it either some apricot sauce or a little syrup mixed with a little kirsch, or maraschino.

From Urbain Dubois , The Household Cookery Book (London: 1861)

Some puddings consisted of a hollow crust of paste with a filling of fruit or meat. These are really a development from the humble dumpling, a small pastry 'wrappling' containing a small bird or an apple. Dubois' pudding is a nice example of one of these; classic in its simplicity and really excellent to eat. It was boiled in a dome or bombe mould tightly wrapped in cloth, using the method illustrated on the left. It is interesting to note that it was made with short crust pastry, rather than a suet crust. Dumplings, really miniature puddings, were frequently made by enclosing an apple or pigeon in puff pastry, wrapping it in cloth and boiling it. This produced a much lighter dish than a suet crust.

3. Dripping Pan Puddings

Yorkshire Pudding 'firing' in a toss-pan under the spit

Yorkshire Pudding, perhaps the most celebrated of all English puddings, 'fires' in the fierce radiant heat below a roasting shoulder of mutton. Nowadays, everybody bakes this dish in the oven and serves it as an accompaniment to roast beef. In the eighteenth century it was always toasted under the fire and was usually served with mutton. Before the batter was put under the roast, it was cooked over the fire in a pan. The secret of getting the pudding to rise and become light, was to turn it over once or twice and gently toss it in the pan. It is much richer than a modern Yorkshire pudding because it absorbs the gravy as the meat cooks.The earliest known recipe (see below) is called Dripping Pudding and dates from 1737. It is found in a cookery compilation called The Whole Duty of a Woman. This monumental work was one of the sources used by Hannah Glasse, whose The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy (London: 1747) is the first book to call it Yorkshire Pudding. Some other Georgian authors tell us to put a little ginger in the mix. As roasting in front of the range became rarer, the Yorkshire Pudding ended up being 'baked' in the oven with the joint, a case of the baby being thrown out with the bathwater.

As has already been explained, slices of plum pudding were also 'fired' or toasted under beef roast and there were other puddings that were cooked in this way. In Georgian Scotland for instance, a pudding prepared from mashed potato, chopped onion, spices and eggs was baked in a dish under the spit. The radiant heat created by a good roasting fire is remarkably powerful at this low angle and can cook a pudding almost as efficiently as an oven.

Dripping Pudding

Make a good Batter as for Pancakes, put it in a hot Toss-pan over the Fire with a Bit of Butter to fry the Bottom a little, then put the Pan and Batter under a Shoulder of Mutton instcad of a Dripping-pan, keeping frequent1y shaking it by the Handle and it will be light and savoury, - and fit to take up when your Mutton is enough; then turn it in a Dish, and serve it hot.

From Anon, The Whole Duty of a Woman (London: 1737)

4. Baked Puddings

Concealed beneath its decorative puff pastry cover, is a baked pudding enriched with bone marrow and delicately flavoured with rosewater. It belongs to a class of English puddings which were baked in a dish or pastry case, rather than being boiled or 'fired'. Puddings of this kind were closely related to tarts. They were always enriched with butter or marrow, rather than the much heavier suet used in boiled puddings. In his Academy of Armory and Blazon (Chester: 1688), Randle Holme calls this sort of pudding, 'a pudding pie'.

Although recipes appear in seventeenth century cookery texts, this type of pudding reached it apogee in the following century. Popular flavours were marrow, almond, carrot, chestnut, lemon and Seville orange. Recipes abound in the popular cookery books of the Georgian period.

To make a Marrow Pudding - Poudin de Mouëlle formée

Take four Naples Biscuits; rub them through a Cullender, with the Crumb of a French-roll; boil a Pint of Milk with a Pint of Cream; put it to the Biscuit and cover all down; then beat eight Eggs; strain them and put them to the Pudding, with as much fine Sugar as will sweeten it ; grate in Half a Nutmeg, and put in a little Salt with a little Rose­water; then wash Half a Pound of Currans; rub and dry them, and mix all together. This done, put your Pudding into the Stew-pan, and set it over a Charcoal fire; keep it stirring with a Whisk till it be thick; then put it into your Dish and let stand to cool then put in your Marrow, in Pieces, about the same Quantity as is contain'd in one Marrow bone. Put a Rim of Puff paste round your Dish; and lay on the Cover, cut in the following Form. Three Quarters of an Hour will bake it: You may ice the Cover, and the Rim also if you please. Directions concerning icing will be given in a more proper Place afterwards.

From John Thacker, The Art of Cookery (Newcastle: 1758)

An Almond Pudding baked in a slipware pie dish. To give the pudding a strong 'marzipan' flavour, some recipes call for a few bitter almonds to be pounded in the mortar with the sweet ones.

'The best Orange-Pudding that ever was tasted'.


To make a White-pot

Boil a Quart of Cream with large Mace, let it stand till it is almost cold; then beat the Yolks of eight Eggs, and put them into the Cream with Salt and Sugar to your Taste. Lay thin slices of white Bread in the bottom of a Dish, and lay on them slic'd Dates, Raisins of the Sun, or what Sweet-meats you please, with bits of Marrow, or of fresh Butter, and lay on another Layer of Bread, Fruit, &c. till the Dish is full, grating Nutmeg between every Layer; then put in your Cream, and lay Slices of Bread and Bits of Butter on the top of all, and bake it.

From: John Nott, The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary. (London: 1723)

'The Head of Man is like a Pudding...'

This quotation is from one of the most beautifully written political satires of the early Georgian period. Attributed to the poet Henry Carey (1687-1743), the puddings and dumplings to which it refers, stand for political corruption.

'The Head of Man is like a Pudding; and whence have all Rhymes, Poems, Plots, and Inventions sprung - but from that same Pudding? What is Poetry but a Pudding of Words?

The Physicians, though they cry out so much against Cooks and Cookery, yet are but Cooks themselves; with this difference only - the Cook's Pudding lengthens life - the Physician's shortens it: so that we live and die by pudding - For what is a Clyster but a Bag Pudding - a Pill but a Dumpling - or a Bolus but a Tanzy, though not altogether so toothsome. In a word, Physic is only a Puddingizing, or Cookery of Drugs - the law is but a Cookery of Quibbles.

The Universe itself is but a Pudding of Elements, ­ Empires, Kingdoms, States, and Republics, are but Puddings of People differently mixed up.

The Celestial and Terrestrial Orbs are deciphered to us by a pair of Globes, or Mathematical Puddings.

The success of War, and the fate of Monarchies, are entirely dependent on Puddings and Dumplings - for what else are Cannon-balls but Military Puddings, or Bullets but Dumplings - only with this difference, they do not sit so well on the stomach as a good Marrow Pudding or Bread Pudding. In short, there is nothing valuable in Nature but what more or less has an allusion to Pudding or Dumpling.

Some swallow every thing whole and unmixed, so that it may rather be called a Heap than a Pudding.- Others are so squeamish, that the greatest mastership in Cookery is required to make the Pudding palatable : - the Suet, which others gape and swallow by gobs, must for these puny stomachs be minced to atoms, the Plumbs must be picked with the utmost care, and every ingredient proportioned to the greatest nicety, or it will never go down. From a learned Dissertation on Dumplings'

From: Henry Carey, A Learned Dissertation on Dumpling; its Dignity, Antiquity and Excellence with a Word upon Pudding London 1726




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