Pre- and Proto-Puddings II: The Rise of White Puddings

One thing pretty much everyone agreed upon back in the early days of puddings was that they were a very good idea. Organs, blood and grain all stuffed into a bladder and boiled? What’s not to love? Yet the big problem for pudding lovers of the period was that puddings were prisoners of seasonality. I mean let’s face it, the average person didn’t have fresh blood, guts and bladders lying around everywhere all the time. On the farm animals were only slaughtered in cool weather to prevent spoilage (refrigerators being in very short supply in the first few millenniums before Christ). Thus at the dawn of the Age of Pudding, it would have only been a once-in-a-while treat.

It wasn’t until the 1600′s (A.D.) that puddings became regular fare. That was the time that “pudding cloths” were invented — simple pieces of calico that you could spoon a batter into, boil and reuse. They were great stand-ins for bladders, and freed puddings from the seasonal cycle they had previously been trapped in. That freed cooks of the day to get creative with pudding. Instead of the same old blood and guts, they were at liberty to experiment with things that were available at other times of year: eggs, vegetables, fresh and dried fruits, nuts…you name it. In this way, pudding evolved from a what into a how.

This is how the white pudding was born. And it remains with us to this day. Of course there are still plenty of black puddings out there, notably among the Scots who still place a high value on foods like haggis, which if you haven’t tried…is completely understandable. South of there however, in England, white (usually sweet) puddings now reign, some of the most famous exemplars being plum pudding and Spotted Dick (no snickering, you in the back). Only very few are made in pudding cloths nowadays.

Today pudding makers use tin forms or shallow dishes — as with Yorkshire pudding — or prepare them in pans over a flame on the stove top. These bear very little resemblance to that thing that was once knows as a “pudding”, yet they can all trace their roots back to the same, ancient tradition…of cooking up odds and ends in a form, using some sort of thickener or binder to hold everything together. And that’s as close to definition of “pudding” as I can honestly get.

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8 Responses to Pre- and Proto-Puddings II: The Rise of White Puddings

  1. Kitty says:

    Hah, makes me think of blood pudding here. Except it has no raisins or fruit or whatever, its just…a really dark slab of something thats oddly sweet and reminds me of bread. A thickish oddly textured one mind that goes from dark to black in the frying pan. :)

    • Kitty says:

      Here, a very decent (and funny) description with pictures of the stuff. My sweetie likes to have it for dinner. It took me… a YEAR to try it? Not so bad.

      • joepastry says:

        Oh, Mrs. Pastry would be in heaven there. She loves blood pudding…and has turned me into a fan as well. Thanks!

        - Joe

        • Kitty says:

          Well I must admit, it was not remotely like anything I guess I expected it to be? We eat it from time to time, its pretty cheap. :)
          It is one of the least like foods apparently too. I think its the name.

  2. linda says:


    Please tell Kitty that is the funniest story I have read in a loooong time (aside from those of the author/host of this blog, of course). I’m sorry I read it at work as I was laughing out loud and there is no way I could explain that topic to my co-workers!

    • Kitty says:

      Sure you could! Just.. let them read it for themselves.
      I have not tried store bought lingonberry jam as my fiance’s family has always made it themselves from berries picked themselves so he doesn’t LIKE the store stuff.
      Every time I read that story I laugh though.
      Want more laughs? Google Surströmming and jokes surrounding that (Though Jamie Oliver liked it!… his reaction is still gold though-” My nose says No no! but my taste buds say yes yes!”)

  3. Crystal Clark says:

    This story makes me glad I’m alive today.. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to eat traditional pudding… Of course, if I lived back then, I;m sure I would have loved to have something to eat; even that!

    How do you know so much? Do you research before you answer someone’s question or do you just know this stuff? :)

    • joepastry says:

      Ha! I hA what you’d call a trivial mind. I’m an eclectic reader, but I definitely do research different questions when asked. Part of the fun of the job!

      Merry Christmas!

      - Joe

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