Clootie Dumpling is a traditional Scots dish that has been around for centuries.
It was around 1650, when people realised that a pudding cloth could be used to steam or boil puddings in a bubbling pot of water over an open fire. Difficult to find an early recipe for Clootie Dumpling, the closest that can be found is a recipe for plum pudding. In Hannah Glasse’s book, ‘The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy’, first published in 1747, her recipe for ‘ A Boiled Plumb Pudding’, shows the ingredients are very similar to Clootie Dumpling . Look at a modern day recipe and you will see that the recipe has not changed much in over almost 300 years.
Clootie Dumpling is often compared to Christmas Pudding, it is similar, but not as rich and can be eaten all year round. Clootie Dumpling used to be a very popular alternative to a birthday or wedding cake
Charms were often stirred into the dumpling, so everyone got a piece of their fortune along with their pudding. Finding a coin, such as silver sixpences or thruppenny bits meant wealth. A ring signified marriage, a wishbone promised the recipient their heart’s desire, the man who found a button and the woman, who received the thimble were destined to stay single.
There is no standard recipe for Clootie Dumpling. Seldom written, recipes were passed down through family members over the years. Common ingredients were flour, sugar, suet, dried fruit and spices. The rest was up to family traditions or finances or a bit of both - treacle, grated apple, orange zest, oatmeal, breadcrumbs, ginger, milk, eggs, butter, sherry, whisky and many more. Often no set quantities or timings, all down to instinct and experience.
The name Clootie Dumpling comes from the floured cloot(cloth) that the pudding is boiled in. While the ingredients of a Clootie Dumpling vary, it must always be wrapped in a cloth.
The cloth, or more commonly in the past, a pillowcase was used, dipped in boiling water for a couple of minutes, wrung out, then sprinkled with flour and tied around the Clootie Dumpling. The cloth, being a reminder of the days before ovens, when all family meals were boiled in a pot.
Clootie Dumplings are boiled for several hours, the floured cloth helps form the characteristic skin around the dumpling. After boiling, the cloth is removed and the skin dried out in front of the fire before serving.
Nowadays the drying out takes place in an oven. Without the skin it is not a real Clootie Dumpling.
Clootie Dumplings were traditionally served hot with custard, with any leftovers fried in butter and served with bacon for breakfast the next day. Nowadays they are often served with brandy butter, ice cream or double cream.
Leftovers are still as delicious, served fried with a cooked breakfast or eaten cold, as you would enjoy a slice of fruit cake.