Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What is a Sugarplum?

I love Christmastime for so many reasons, including lots of cooking and baking. This season I've dusted off old cookbooks, pulled out favorite recipes, and have enthusiastically been on the prowl for new, untried confections.

While I was gathering together the books I wanted to use, I came across an old family, non-cooking favorite, T’was the Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore. Reading this poem on Christmas Eve has become a worldwide institution and our family has always participated in this time-honored tradition. As I flipped through the familiar pages the phrase, “While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads” caught my attention. It seems that sugarplums have always been associated with Christmas. Remember the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker?

So here’s my question: What is a sugarplum?

Well, it turns out that the sugarplums generally referenced at Christmastime are usually not really plums at all; although they sometimes are made with a dried type of fruit like raisins, cherries or apricots. The New Food Lover’s Companion, by Sharon Tyler Herbst, says that a sugarplum is "a small confection, often consisting of fruit such as a candied cherry or dried apricot surrounded by fondant." Basically a fancy sweet treat that sounds pretty yummy!

Then on further research I found a site featuring bonafide sugarplums that are unrelated to the confectionary visions. It turns out this delightful and tasty fruit in the shape of a gigantic grape is packed with antioxidants such as vitamin A, potassium, iron, and magnesium.

Links for the site and recipes are listed below:

Mount Lassen Farms Sugar Plums

Sugar Plum Recipes

The Night Before Christmas

Historical Cookery Page - Visions of Sugarplums

The New Food Lover’s Companion

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