Old Fashioned Christmas Sugar Plums

T'was the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...
You have probably heard of the famous Christmas poem by Clement Moore describing the magical silence, joy and reverence of quiet Christmas Eve night. You have also probably heard of Sugar Plum Fairy dance made famous by the Nutcracker Ballet, but I am willing to bet that you have never actually heard of a Sugar Plum. If you have, you are one of few who know what this special Christmas treat is. Any guesses as to what they are? If your answer is plums coated in sugar, unfortunately, you would be making a common mistake. So what are they?

Well... since you asked so nicely.... The most simple answer is that Sugar Plums are a mixture of dried fruit and nuts, combined with a variety of spices, honey or molasses, which is then rolled into balls and coated in raw sugar. The processing of the dried fruit gives the sweet a purplish hue closely resembling that of a plum and lends them to the name Sugar Plum. Not what exactly what you thought? You wouldn't be alone!

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that  St. Nicholas soon would be there..

The history of the Sugar Plums dates back to a time before refined sugars and rampant consumerism. A time when a piece of fruit, valuable in its seasonal rarity, was considered a special gift for the holiday season. Families would gather any spare dried fruits from the larder, add spices and honey and give them as a special treat around the Christmas tree. Nowadays, the traditional Sugar Plum is not nearly as common as it used to be and their production is slowly dying out in the wake of more modern Christmas desserts. There does exist some debate to whether a Sugar Plum was originally dried fruit or some sort of candy coated nut, but either way, they still evoke the magic of a vintage old fashioned Christmas in all of our hearts. I have been making Sugar Plums each Christmas for a few years now and enjoy giving them as a novelty treat to give to family and friends!

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads..

 Before we get to the recipe, I will warn you that Sugar Plums come before the time of mindless consumerism and are not meant to be eaten in large quantities. They are much too sweet and spicy for that! If you like things like Chai tea, ginger snaps and spice cookies you will enjoy this Sugar Plum recipe. If not, I would recommend halving the spices and omitting the coriander - you can always add more later! You can also substitute any dried fruit that you prefer, however I would suggest keeping the proportions of sweet, tart and mild the same. In the past I have successfully used figs, cherries and prunes as additions and/or substitutes. Sugar Plums should be refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to serve and can be made up to three days ahead of time.

Old Fashioned Christmas Sugar Plums
Prep time 30 minutes
Makes 16 medium sized Sugar Plums

1 cup dried dates
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/4 cup walnuts
2 tbsp honey
(optional: halve the following spices for milder flavor)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp of coriander (omit for mild flavor)
zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup of sugar for rolling
  1. Using a food processor (or sharp knife), finely chop the apricots, cranberries, dates and walnuts
  2. Transfer to a medium sized bowl and add the honey and spices
  3. Using a grater, zest the rind of one orange, add to the bowl and mix well
  4. Using your hands, scoop out 2 tbsp of the mixture and form into a medium sized balls, then set aside
  5.  Pour 1/2 cup of sugar into a small bowl and roll each ball in the sugar
  6. Serve the sugar plums in mini cupcake liners to prevent sticking, or refrigerate in an airtight container up to three days before serving

Sugar Plums are a sweet, whimsical treat that you should consider adding to your Christmas traditions this year! As I mentioned above, they make a fun novelty hor d'oeuvre at a holiday party or as tasty old fashioned Christmas gift for family and friends. What sort of holiday foods make this a special time of year for you?  Some of my other favorites include cheesecake, ginger snaps and cinnamon rolls- yum!!



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