How to make Mother Eve’s Pudding – an 1820s recipe.

A recipe written as a poem

If you have a good pudding pray mind what you’re taught
Take two penny worth of eggs when they’re twelve for a groat,
Then take of the fruit which Eve once did cozen,
Well pared and well chop’d at least half a dozen,
Six ounces of bread, let your maid eat the crust,
The crumb must be grated as small as the dust
Six ounces of currants from the stones you must sort,
Lest they break all your teeth & spoil all your sport,
Six ounces of sugar won’t make it too sweet,
Some salt, and some nutmeg, the whole will complete
Three hours let it boil without hurry or flutter
And by way of improvement add good melted butter
A little brandy in the composition
Will be deemed a great acquisition
Adam tasted the pudding & said ’twas wondrous nice,
Then begged Mother Eve to cut him another slice.

The mystery of the recipe book

The poem above comes from a manuscript cookbook that I own. At the back of the book, handwritten in tiny writing is ‘1830 Finis’. It’s intriguing and one of the reasons I believe the recipes date from before that time. But the mystery of the book’s origin and date is yet to be resolved.

2 pennyworth of eggs – 12 for a groat?

But some mysteries of the recipes are easier to solve. The recipe-as-rhyme says “2 pennyworths of eggs when they’re twelve for a groat”.

A groat was a British silver coin worth 4 pennies. (It was stopped being produced in 1856 during Queen Victoria’s reign).

A recipe that appears in other handwritten books

The recipe is not unique to the handwritten book I own. It pops up in almost every manuscript or handwritten cookbook and it’s claimed to have come from a simple recipe written by Mary Eaton 1823 in the Cook and Housekeeper’s Complete and Universal Dictionary. But I have my doubts.

Further is claimed that it is written by the cookbook writer Eliza Acton, as she also wrote poetry. But the evidence is shaky.

Anyway, so that’s 6 eggs. I’ve reduced the quantities down from the original recipe to make an individual pudding.

I’ve given the recipe for one person but you can easily scale this up by increasing the number of eggs and the other ingredients proportionally. 

1 egg

1 apple (I used a russet) 

1 oz/28.3 grams of breadcrumbs

1 oz/28.3 grams of currants (luckily ours come without stones)

1 oz/28.3 grams of sugar

Some salt

Some nutmeg

Some brandy and some butter to taste is deemed ‘a great acquisition’. But that’s up to you. 

To be truly authentic take a piece of cheesecloth, muslin, or any old piece of cotton to act as a pudding cloth. Wet with boiling water, flour generously in the middle of the cloth, on both sides, use a bowl to support the cloth and fill with the pudding mix. Tie tightly with string. Boil for an hour.

For ease, it’s possible to use a small basin, dariole mould or even a teacup. Fill with the mixture. Cover with greaseproof paper, or foil. Tie in place with string.

Place in an oven dish and fill 2/3 with hot water. Place in a pre-heated oven of 200 degrees centigrade which is 392 Fahrenheit. And cook for an hour, checking the water levels every 15 minutes, filling up with boiling water from a kettle when the water level drops.

The pudding is similar to a light Christmas pudding I make from Eliza Acton but this does have slightly more apple and less spice and can be eaten, I feel, any time of the year. 

Delicious served with a white sauce with port or even custard. It is easy to make with or without a maid.