And Visions of Sugarplums Danced in Their Heads

Okay, class… hands up if you actually know what a sugar plum is.

The Oxford Canadian Dictonary description is “a small round candy of flavoured, boiled sugar”, which is the oddest description I’ve ever seen. Larousse Gastronomique, that bastion of all things edible, disappointingly, contains no entry at all.

If you do a Google search on “sugar plum” you get sugar plum fairies, sugar plum balls (as in, the dance), a website for a gift basket company, and even a brand of tea. None of those have anything to do with actual sugar plums, however.

I first ate a sugar plum in Simcoe, Ontario in about 1990. Some neighbour of my ex’s grandparents discovered an old Victorian recipe and made boxes of the things to give as gifts. We had a box of a dozen to share between six or seven of us. I think I managed to score three of the things, based on a relative or two disliking dried fruit. Brilliant things these. Dried fruit and nuts, essentially the ingredients in a fruitcake, minus the annoyance of the actual cake, all soaked in booze and rolled together, coated with a sprinkling of sugar to balance the flavours. The sugar plum is so named for the inclusion of the sugar coating and prunes (dried plums) along with a variety of other ingredients.

I made these earlier this evening, a batch of about 40 that may not last until I can give them away (traditionally sugar plums are well, plum-sized, but I made these ones truffle sized, as they’ll be given out along with chocolate truffles).

This recipe contains rum, but you could easily replace that with orange juice if you’re a tee-totaller, or if you’ll be serving these to kids. It would actually be a fun recipe to make with kids, as there is no baking, plus you get to grind stuff up in a food processor and then stick your hands in it (the mixture, not the, uh, food processor). With the exception of the little bit of sugar on the outside, these are also pretty healthy and nutritious.

Tipsy Sugar Plums
Chatelaine Magazine, December 2004

1 cup pitted dates
1 cup pitted prunes
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup toasted pecan halves
1 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut
1/3 cup dark rum or orange liqueur or orange juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Place dates, prunes, cranberries and apricots in food processor. Pulse until fruit is coarsly chopped. Turn into medium sized bowl. Place nuts in food processor, pulse until coarsly chopped. Add to fruit, along with coconut. Drizzle in rum or juice and stir until evenly mixed and moist. Place sugar in a pie plate.

Using your hands, shape fruit mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in sugar. Store between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container. Sugarplums will keep well for several months in the refrigerator, or at room temp for several weeks. The flavour improves with age.