It’s June. My most favorite month of the year. It’s also our wedding anniversary and I wanted to make a very special British dessert. But when you think of British desserts, heavy, rich pastries, cakes and steamed puddings come to mind. So, what should it be? June is the month when strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are plentiful. Seems like the perfect time to attempt a Summer Pudding!
Of course, I can’t begin to make something without first doing a bit of research. All recipes, no matter the country or the culture, originated out of necessity …. using what was in season, as well as using up items that might already be in the kitchen (before they go bad). It seems to me this recipe originated for both those reasons. The ingredients are very simple, seasonal berries, bread and some sugar for sweetening.
This pudding (dessert) is not from Elizabethan England as I had thought. It was created in the early 1900s and originally called “Hydropathic Pudding”. “Hydropathic” because it contained a lot of water and was served to those who couldn’t tolerate the heavier, rich pastry desserts that Great Britain was serving at that time. Because it was deemed “healthy”, it was routinely served to patients in nursing homes and hospitals, as well as to those staying in “health spas” wanting to shed a few pounds. Is it healthier than other desserts? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
The recipe seems to have first appeared as “Hydropathic Pudding” in 1894 in one of the essential Victorian cookbooks at the time, Lizzie Heritage’s Cassell’s New Universal Cookery Book. But apparently, the name “Hydropathic Pudding” didn’t make peoples’ mouth’s water. I don’t know who decided to change the name to “Summer Pudding” but it seems to have been established by 1904 when Miss E.S. Poynter, a missionary in of all places, India, used this name in her cookbook, “Cooking in India“.
The traditional recipe calls for a mixture of blackberries, raspberries and black currants. Unfortunately, this is NEW England and I can’t find black currants anywhere. So, it’s going to be cherries!
3⁄4 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
5 cups of washed blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries (pitted and halved)
10 slices white bread (I used Pepperidge Farm), with crusts removed
2 cups sweetened whipped cream
sprigs of fresh mint
The preparation time for this is about 10 to 15 minutes. It does, however, have to chill in the refrigerator preferably overnight, but at least 5 to 6 hours. So, if you are going to be serving this after dinner, be sure to get it in the frig first thing in the morning.
Wash and prepare all your fruit. You’ll need at least 5 to 6 cups. Put the fruit into a saucepan and add 3/4 cup of sugar and the juice of one lemon. I think the acidity from the lemon juice helps to cut the sweetness of the fruits.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for about two minutes – just until the sugar is dissolved. If you cook the fruit too long, it will turn into jam. Turn off the heat and let cool.
Find a bowl (glass, plastic, ceramic – it doesn’t matter) which will be the pudding’s mold. The first cut of bread you want to make is the one that will fit on the bottom of the bowl (which will become the top of the pudding). Put the bowl on top of the bread and use that as a template. Cut to fit.
Dip the trimmed bread into the pan to sop up the sweetened berry juice, then place it juice-side down (which will be facing out after you unmold it).
Continue dipping the bread into the pan to absorb the berry juice and line the bowl. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Squish the bread together so there aren’t any gaps. When finished, take a slotted spoon and take the berries out of the pan and put them into the bread-lined mold.
Then cover the top with more bread dipped in juice. Make sure the seal is tight.
Top the bowl with a plate that will fit inside. Then place a weight of some sort on the plate. You want to press the pudding together so that it will setup. Chill til firm – 6 hours or overnight.
It’s time for the unmolding ……. keeping fingers crossed!
Run a knife around the edge of the bowl, when ready to serve. Place a plate on and flip. It should unmold without any difficulty. Garnish with whipped cream and enjoy! Serves 4 to 6 easily.
So light, fruity and refreshing. This is a dessert which will have your family and friends wondering how you did it. Absolutely delicious!!
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References: Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson, Household Books, BBC.UK/recipes