As a child of Sussex in the 1970s, Sussex Pond Pudding known in our house as Lemon Bomb, was synonymous with high days and holidays. Using her own Sussex recipe, my mother would coat the inside of an old pudding basin with suet and then fill the centre with a lemon encased in a mixture of brown sugar and butter, before wrapping the whole thing in a muslin cloth and steaming it for what felt like hours. It was a culinary and family ritual, and one that often caused much excitement.
Sussex Pond Pudding seemed to fall out of the public eye for a while, but more recently it seems to be enjoying a bit of a revival on social media sites. But to me, it has always slightly begged the question, how can a traditional Sussex pudding contain a lemon? After all, weren’t these puds for your everyday folk, on a very limited budget and with limited access to exotic items like citrus fruit.
The real Sussex Pond Pudding
Of course, the answer lies in the fact that a real Sussex Pond Pudding didn’t originally have a lemon in it. In fact, MK Sameulson’s Sussex Recipe Book (first published in 1927 and more recently republished in 2005) includes an original recipe that brings with it the sort of imprecision that I embrace when cooking! The recipe itself came from Miss Florence White’s book Good Things in England (first published in 1932 but containing recipes dating back to the 14th century!).
“Make a good suet crust, put in some currants and a little sugar. Divide in two, and roll each piece into a rather thick round. Put into the middle of one round a ball of butter mixed with sugar using the proportions of ½ lb butter to 1.2 lb Demerara sugar. Gather up the edges of the crust, and enclose the butterball … Put in a floured cloth, tie up rather tightly and boil them 3 hours or more”
The addition of lemon
It was only in the late 20th century that a lemon found its way into the suet but here’s my mother’s recipe with the caveat, it could be a bit hit and miss!
For the case
200 g – self-raising flour
100 g – suet
5-10 tbsp – water and milk mix
For the filling
25 g – demerara sugar
125 g – butter
2 unwaxed lemons
Mix the flour and suet and then slowly add the water so you have a firm, dough-like mixture. Roll it out, so that you can line a 1.25 lt bowl with the suet mix (about ¾ cm thick) with enough left to form a lid.
Score the lemons. Cube the butter and mix it into a paste with the sugar put half the paste in the bottom of the suet-lined bowl, add the lemon, and then cover the lemons with the rest of the sugar-butter paste. Finish with a suet lid so that the lemon and paste mixture is fully encased.
At this point, many recipes send you off to create pleats and do complicated things with grease-proof paper! For my money, a muslin cloth (think thin cotton) tied over the top with a piece of string to secure it does just as well. Place the bowl in a large pan filled with water to about half the height of the bowl and steam for 3 hours.
Serve your Sussex Pond Pudding hot with cream or ice cream! If you wanted to be adventurous you could try adding currants as the original recipe suggests.
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