Yes, I know. The first thing that probably pops into your head is the line from the beloved poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas":
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
I just finished a batch of 7 Day Sugar Plums, and now I think I know why those children couldn't sleep that night before Christmas. Knowing I have these in my pantry is practically keeping me awake too, thinking about what a sweet homemade gift these will be for the holidays.
This Sugar Plum recipe, from 16th century England, can be found on an intriguing website called "Gode Cookery", which states it is "A compilation of medieval recipes from authentic sources adapted for the 21st century kitchen, along with diverse facts on food & feasting in the Middle Ages & Renaissance and other historical culinary items."
This recipe includes wonderfully detailed instructions written by a woman named Sharon Cohen, who apparently has/had quite an interest in Renaissance confectionaries, and after reading her article, I was inspired.
I did make a few changes to the Sugar Plum recipe, which is why I said I was inspired by Sharon Cohen's recipe. Feel free to make changes of your own. I think it's perfectly normal for most 500 year old recipes to experience a few modifications along the way.
Here's my version of Sugar Plums:
Pour a layer of sugar into a heavy-bottomed pan, then place halved & pitted plums cut side down.
Add another layer of plums and sugar...
...and continue layering until the pan is 3/4 full of sugar & plums. Bring to a boil s-l-o-w-l-y over very low heat, being careful not to stir or disturb the plums. You want them to retain their shape.
After a syrup forms, which will only be about one minute of boiling, remove from heat, let the plums cool, then cover and place in the refrigerator. Bring them out on the 2nd day, and the 5th day, and repeat the process. Helpful hint: remind yourself when to do the next steps by writing it on the calendar or stick a Post-it on the lid. So both days you'll bring them to a boil slowly, immediately remove from heat, let cool, cover tightly and put back into the refrigerator.
On the 7th day, repeat the process again, but after they have cooled slightly, scoop them out gently, one at a time...
...and place them in a colander to drain...
...but be sure to put a bowl underneath to catch the syrup!
Now you can either put them on a wire rack and set them aside to dry, which might take another week, making them 14 Day Sugar Plums...
...or put them on food dehydrator racks...
...and stick them in the food dehydrator, which will really speed things up!
After a couple days, or when the Sugar Plums seem dry but are still a bit sticky when you touch them, get yourself a nice big bowl of sparkling white sugar and get ready to roll!
Note: I used Vanilla Sugar, because I had plenty of it on hand.
Set the sugared plums aside to dry...
...and after the sugar has dried, store them in an air-tight container. Be sure to eat one right away though, as you're making them, so you know why they took a week to make, and why it was worth every minute of it.
One cute by-product of making Sugar Plums? This is how the parchment papers looked after I took the plums off of them.
Such a pretty color. Wouldn't it make "sweet" wrapping paper?
So now what do you do with the plums that might not be quite up to snuff? The ones that have lost their shape. The jam-maker in me forgot for a minute I was making Sugar Plums, and on the very first boiling I plunged a big spoon into them. A few plums were subsequently smooshed.
It wasn't the end of the world. I still had a lot of super-delicious plummy syrup to put into jars, and now I had a few plump bits & pieces plus some almost-perfect halves of plums to go along with that syrup.
I don't believe any recipe I have seen for Sugar Plums mentions saving the syrup or the plum pieces. Not sure why not. I processed the jars in a Boiling Water Bath and now the "Sugar Plums in Syrup" are in my pantry, and perfectly-suited for turning a simple dessert into something special.
I'll leave you with one last parchment paper imprint.
Sort of a Sugar Plum Lip Smacker!