Christmas Trivia - Sugar Plum

What is a sugar plum?

Sugar Plums are closely connected with Christmas. The 1823 poem The Night Before Christmas describes the children awaiting Santa's arrival as dreaming of sugar plums. ("The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads"). Also, the Nutcracker Suite includes the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. But what IS a sugar plum?

A sugar plum is not a plum. Instead, it is a piece of candy made from dry fruits and in a round or oval shape. In older times, "plum" referred to any kind of dried fruit (hence, Little Jack Horner stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum from his Christmas pie).

Sugar plums might be made from prunes, figs, apricots, dates, or some other dried fruit. The dried fruit ingredients might be chopped up and mixed with honey, nuts, and/or spices, and more recently rolled in coconut. A crunchy shell on the outside was created in layers by a process called "panning."

Because sugar plums were a luxury good, the word "plum" came to have a secondary meaning of "desirable" or "valuable," as in a "plum assignment" or a "real plum."

There is a consistent theme throughout Christmas lore featuring dried fruit confections, such as fruit cake, figgy pudding. While fruitcake remains a common holiday treat, figgy pudding and sugar plums today are less often seen.


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