Eliza Acton’s 1845 Recipe for ‘Queen Mab’s Summer Pudding’

“QUEEN MAB’S PUDDING. (An elegant summer dish.)

Throw into a pint of new milk the thin rind of a small lemon, and six or eight bitter almonds, blanched and bruised ; or substitute for these half a pod of vanilla, cut small, heat it slowly by the side of the fire, and keep it at the point of boiling until it is strongly flavoured, then add a small pinch of salt, and three quarters of an ounce of the finest isinglass, or a full ounce should the weather be extremely warm ; when this is dissolved, strain the milk through a muslin, and put it into a clean saucepan, with four ounces and a half of sugar in lumps, and half a pint of rich cream ; give the whole one boil, and then stir it briskly and by degrees to the well-beaten yolks of six fresh eggs ; next, thicken the mixture as a custard, over a gentle fire, but do not hazard its curdling ; when it is of tolerable consistency, pour it out, and continue the stirring until it is half cold, then mix with it an ounce and a half of candied citron, cut in small spikes, and a couple of ounces of dried cherries, and pour it into a mould rubbed with a drop of oil : when turned out it will have the appearance of a pudding. From two to three ounces of preserved ginger, well drained and sliced, may be substituted for the cherries, and an ounce of pistachio nuts, blanched and split, for the citron ; these will make an elegant variety of the dish, and the syrup of the ginger, poured round as sauce, will be a further improvement. Currants steamed until tender, and candied orange or lemon-rind are often used instead of the cherries, and the well-sweetened juice of strawberries, raspberries (white or red), apricots, peaches, or syrup of pine-apple, will make an agreeable sauce ; a small quantity of this last will also give a delicious flavour to the pudding itself, when mixed with the other ingredients. Cream may be substituted entirely for the milk, when its richness is considered desirable.

New milk, 1 pint ; rind 1 small lemon ; bitter almonds, 6 to 8 (or, vanilla ½ pod) ; salt few grains ; isinglass ¾ oz. (1 oz. in sultry weather) ; sugar 4½ ozs. ; cream, ½ pint ; yolks, 6 eggs ; dried cherries, 2 ozs. ; candied citron, 1½ oz. (or, preserved ginger, 2 to 3 ozs., and the syrup as sauce, and 1 oz. of blanched pistachio nuts ; or 4 ozs. currants, steamed 20 minutes, and 2 ozs. candied orange-rind). For sauce, sweetened juice of strawberries, raspberries, or plums, or pine-apple syrup.

Obs. – The currants should be steamed in an earthen cullender placed over a saucepan of boiling water, and covered with the lid. It will be a great improvement to place the pudding over ice for an hour before it is served.”

Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery in All Its Branches 2nd edition (1845)

In my recent post on the origins of the ‘Summer Pudding’ I mentioned a C19th recipe for ‘Queen Mab’s Summer Pudding’1The title of the recipe, as given above, is just ‘Queen Mab’s Pudding’, but in the book’s index, it’s listed as ‘Queen Mab’s Summer Pudding’., that was published in various editions of Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery in All its Branches; which in its day was one of the most popular cookery manuals of the era, until it was eclipsed by the publication of Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management2A great deal of which was plagiarised, without credit to the other writers, from the likes of Eliza Acton and other cookery writers of the mid nineteenth century. This was, however, a common practice at the time, so far from a unique act by Mrs Beeton, or more likely her publisher-editor husband..

The recipe, as you can see from the transcribed passage above, seemed a bit too complex and convoluted to drop into that round-up article, and so I thought I’d post it separately, in case anyone was interested in going into the detail.

There’s quite a lot of detail to unpack, as Eliza Acton provides us with several versions of a set custard pudding, flavoured with various types of fruit and syrup. The base is either boiled milk or cream laced with either lemon and almonds or vanilla, that’s then thickened with egg-yolks, slowly part-cooked and then left to solidify. By the sound of things you can add whatever combination of dried, preserved or candied fruit, or nuts, that you fancy, as long as you don’t add them to the mixture too soon.

What do you think? Does this fruity, set custard pud sound appealing to you? Or would you prefer something closer to the modern-day, fruit filled bread-dome of a summer pudding? Do please let me know, via the comments.

Footnotes

  • 1
    The title of the recipe, as given above, is just ‘Queen Mab’s Pudding’, but in the book’s index, it’s listed as ‘Queen Mab’s Summer Pudding’.
  • 2
    A great deal of which was plagiarised, without credit to the other writers, from the likes of Eliza Acton and other cookery writers of the mid nineteenth century. This was, however, a common practice at the time, so far from a unique act by Mrs Beeton, or more likely her publisher-editor husband.

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