Homemade suet pudding has been a long-time family favorite. This tasty cuisine originated in British kitchens around the 15th century. Despite being a favorite comfort food, suet is hard to find. Suet is extracted from the firm tissue covering an animal’s kidneys.
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Suet is saturated fat used in traditional British and Irish dishes, including steamed pudding, pie, and mincemeat. The dessert consists of mixing suet with different ingredients like grains or other binders such as butter, sugar, rice, eggs, resulting in a firm mass.
As a treat for Christmas or other family gatherings, most families love Suet pudding as dessert. Meat suet is used for foods such as meat pies, while vegetarian suet is used for lighter dishes. Suet has a slightly meaty flavor and a clean, crumbly texture. It is a versatile material that you can use in several different delicious meals. You won’t regret learning about this secret.
What Is “Suet”?
Suet is a harder fatty tissue that covers the kidneys of a cow or other animals. If you want to get your hands on some good suet, you will have to get suet from animal meat. A local butcher may have some for a low price, but it’s more likely that you’ll have to order it. The suet of animals is usually removed from the carcass after slaughter. This often doesn’t get to the market with the rest of the meat.
You can mix the fatty tissue with self-raising flour (plain flour is okay), a dash of salt, and just a bit of water. Combining these ingredients will result in a dough-like substance that you can use just like pie crust, or however you choose.
Cook Suet Over Medium to Low Heat
You’ll want to cook suet over medium to low heat in a saucepan for approximately 20 minutes until melted. You can then cover it in a bowl to cool. Place the suet in the freezer to keep until you’re ready to use it for your recipes. When you are prepared to use some, take a portion out. Chop or grate as needed, then put the rest back in the fridge or freezer.
Suet is said to have a smooth taste, a slightly meaty smell, and a rough, crumbly texture. You can prepare it in a variety of ways. In an old-fashioned suet pudding, beef, pork, or lamb is cooked with it.
You would either cook the meat with the suet or prepare it as a filling. If you don’t prefer a beef suet pudding, go for an alternative. Vegetarian or vegan suet pudding is also becoming readily available in grocery stores. Atora is a convenient food brand that provides both meat and vegetarian versions of suet. Stay tuned for more tasty varieties!
Suet Pudding Recipe
Apples, raisins, and pleasant spices accompany a white vanilla sauce on top to satisfy your sweet-tooth in this dessert version of suet pudding.
- 3 cups of flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon of cloves
- ¼ teaspoon of cardamom
- 1 cup of vegetable shortening
- 1 ½ cups of buttermilk
- ½ cup of molasses
- 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
- 1 chopped apple
- Combine all of the dry ingredients in one bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the molasses and shortening, mix well. Gradually add the dry ingredients into this bowl, along with buttermilk, until mixed well. Add in the raisins and apples.
- Pour the entire mixture into a 9-inch mold or cake pan. Cover with aluminum foil.
- Place the pot on a rack filled with boiling water in a steamer oven. The water should be slightly boiling for approximately 2-3 hours. You can add boiling water every 40 minutes or so into the steamer.
- Check on the firmness of your pudding by sticking a toothpick in. It should pull out smoothly without anything sticking to it. This method is used for brownies and cakes to ensure the pastry is done cooking and not runny in the middle.
To make the white vanilla sauce, combine one cup of sugar to a cup of water, one vanilla bean, and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in a saucepan. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat and continue to stir until the sauce reaches a jelly-like consistency.
Serve your steamed suet pudding and drizzle white sauce over it. Enjoy!
The “British Bulldog”
Sharing the name of a professional wrestling group from Britain (David “Davey Boy” Smith and Tom “The Dynamite Kid” Bellington), the British Bulldog is also the name for this dinner-style variation of suet pudding. This dish requires the traditional ingredients needed for the suet. You will need:
- 12 oz. of flour, self-rising preferred
- 6 oz. of grated or shredded beef suet
- ½ tsp of salt
You will be preparing a filling for this suet pudding.
The Filling Will Require:
- 1 ½ pound of chopped steak
- 2 tbsp of flour
- 1 tbsp of puree tomato
- 1 chopped onion
- ½ tsp of dried or chopped mixed herbs
- 1 pt of beef stock
- Salt and pepper
You should have your steak already cooked for at least 2 hours before preparing the suet pudding. Season the flour and dip the meat into the flour mix before frying and adding onions. Place in a deep pan, such as a casserole, along with the beef stock, tomato, and herbs. Let this cook for at least 2 hours, then set aside to cool.
Prepare the pudding as you usually would, combining ingredients and mixing well into a dough-like form. Once it is doughy, roll it out with a rolling pin onto a flat surface. Have your choice of molding set to the side, and measure how wide you should cut to place appropriately into the molds.
Your “dough” should be cupped into the mold of choice, with enough room to add your steak filling into the mold. Break another piece of suet to roll over your mold and cover it. Seal with aluminum foil. Steam for about two hours and serve with other fresh vegetables or sides of your choice. You will have a beautifully layered beef and steak suet pudding that is sure to knock you into a food coma.
The Original Recipe
The original recipe from Britain in the 15th century includes homemade suet, freshly purchased from a butcher shop. The suet knobs are crumbled for easier preparation.
You first want to beat six eggs together, along with two cubes of brown sugar. Add in your choice of spices, which can include nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and mace. Grab one loaf of bread to crumble and mix into the mixture. Stale bread can be easier to crumble for this occasion. Some cooks will add a small portion of dark whiskey, but this is optional. After being thoroughly mixed together, add the grated suet with some raisins.
A traditional ingredient for suet pudding is to add small pieces of candied fruit peels. Mixing these ingredients will result into a firmer substance that may be harder to manipulate.
Try using a wooden spoon if you find this part painful.
Suet is malleable and usually placed into a mold that it can be cooked or steamed in to take on a preferred shape. You will want to rub butter over the inside of the mold of your choice.
Do not forget this tip, unless you want your suet to stick to the sides and come out unevenly. Pour your mixture into the mold and cover the mold with foil. Foil is a better choice to cover your mold with, as opposed to saran wrap, because of the perfect seal it creates while cooking.
Suet Pudding Slow Cooker
A nesco can be thought of as a suet pudding slow cooker, but it is simply a roaster oven. A slow cooker is perfect for cooking your suet while it is in the mold, because it can hold water on the bottom of the pot before you place the mold inside.
A stock pot can be used with a pasta insert if you don’t use a Nesco (in this case, use low heat). Pour water into your cooker of choice and set to boil around 400 degrees. Steam the mold for about four hours, checking on the water every hour or so.
You can prepare the hard sauce by combining butter, regular sugar, or powdered sugar, with whiskey, brandy, or sherry. Mix well and chill until ready to serve. Contrary to its name, the hard sauce comes out as a liquid, sweet sauce that can be served with many desserts. In my opinion, the term “hard sauce” may come from the fact that you can set this sauce on fire for a few seconds before serving with your pudding.
Doing this step should spark up the flavors of the hard sauce.
Once it has finished cooking, you will want to remove the mold from the heat and let it sit for a minimum of 15 minutes. It is best to wait for a minimum of 24 hours before serving, storing in a warm, dark place. Suet molds used to even be placed under a bed to preserve during the 24 hours!
At this point in preparing your steamed suet pudding, take your mold and carefully flip it upside down onto a plate. The suet pudding should slide out of the mold into a perfectly molded “upside-down cake.” You can now enjoy an authentic plate of suet pudding with hard sauce.
Suet Can Be Found in Other Desserts
Suet is the main fat in many traditional British puddings and other dishes, despite its sometimes meaty flavor. Spotted Dick is a spongy pudding made of suet, dry fruit, and eaten with custard. It is nostalgic for most Brits, as it is traditionally found in school meals. The fruit in the pastry are the “spots” in the Spotted Dick.
A German translation of “dick” can be interpreted to mean “thick”. Although meat-based puddings originate back to medieval times, the introduction of the pudding cloth aided in the introduction of suet pudding to the 17th century. The 18th century was then greeted by a newer, sweeter variation with additives of spices and fruits.
A roly-poly is another traditional dessert for the British.
The prepared suet has custard or jam spread all over its “dough” and is then rolled. It is a pastry that also calls for being covered with aluminum foil and steamed or baked. It was first boiled in muslin before it was upgraded to being baked or steamed. Fillings can also be added to the roly-poly when first spreading the jam. There are many variations that you can make with a jam roly-poly.
Have You Ever Heard of Mincemeat?
While not many people have heard of mincemeat, it is another dish popularized in England. In the 12th century, alcohol, vinegar, sugars, and imported spices began to be used in preserving meat instead of smoking it or using salt.
Certain spices, such as nutmeg or cinnamon, have unique properties that can slow down microorganisms from growing. Preserving meat that has already been cooked with spices can keep meat good enough to eat for months. Beef suet replaced beef as the main ingredient in mincemeat by the 20th century.
Following the progression of mincemeat preparation throughout the years, liquors have replaced vinegar, as well as fruits replacing meat. The use of fruits was a modification introduced to blend well with the spices used.
Mincemeat is often associated with Christmas or Christianity. It is associated with the gifts that were given to baby Jesus at birth. Mincemeat was usually prepared during the Christmas holiday and is still popular during this holiday in some countries in Europe.
“You’ll Never Know Until You Try!”
There are many different countries and places with unique meals that may be found offputting to anyone who is not local. While suet pudding has a savory result, when encouraged to eat the hard tissue that surrounds the kidney of a cow, one can hardly believe it’s true.
It does not sound appealing and is not the first thing one would think of when thinking about a dessert for the holidays. Here are some other classic British dishes that would have a foreigner raising their eyebrows before giving them a chance.
Laverbread is a Welsh dish comprised of seaweed that has been boiled or cooked for several hours. It is then hallowed and mixed to serve.
Periwinkles are tiny snails taken from the sea and prepared as a British snack and are common to oceanside towns.
Whether you love it or hate it, you will be alongside many other Brits in the controversy over Marmite. Brewer’s yeast is used to create this salty paste that is commonly spread on toasted bread.
Some of the best restaurants in the United Kingdom serve potted shrimps. These are brown shrimps that have been kept in nutmeg butter inside of a jar and served on full meal toast.
Offal is taken from an animal’s inner organs, is sometimes cooked with other meats, and appears in many dishes in the United Kingdom.
Mushy peas are peas that have been soaked overnight, then boiled or cooked with salt and sugar to create a mushy texture. You can also serve them alongside Offal.
Though it does not sound as odd as the other dishes mentioned, having baked beans over a piece of toasted bread is another classic that not many people would choose when scanning their kitchen cabinets for a quick snack.
Black pudding is a popular sausage dish in both Ireland and the United Kingdom and is often added to a fully prepared breakfast, or enjoyed with toast alone. It can be associated with suet pudding but is cooked with the blood from pork. Despite its morbid name and preparation, black pudding is an excellent source of protein and is even free of carbs.
White pudding is the same as black pudding, except instead of making the sausage with the blood of the pig, the fat is used for cooking the meat. It is usually not consumed outside of Ireland or the United Kingdom, allowing them to keep this strange delicacy all to themselves.
Stargazy pie is a meal made of pilchards, potatoes, and eggs baked and served in a pastry shell. This dish gained its name from the cooked fish heads poking through the crust (imagine that!).
Haggis is the national meal of Scotland and is made by combining the pluck of sheep (the liver, heart, and lungs) with onions, oatmeal, and seasonings. Originally, haggis was cooked in the sheep’s stomach. Today, you can see it being cooked in a casing made out of sausage.
Suet Is A Discovered Pleasure
Suet is a flexible substance that can be utilized in various meals, whether sweet or savory. One can see how the use of such parts of the animal for cooking and consumption could be deemed strange or detestable.
It just goes to show how the history of food has been modified and upgraded over the years, despite one’s personal preferences. Do not forget that there is a vegetarian alternative being sold in grocery stores, with suet made from certain oils mixed with flour (wheat or rice). It is still a good tasting material that you can use as a regular suet for your puddings, pastries, or crusts.
Different Birds Can Also consume suet
Suet can also be consumed by different birds and used in a bird feeder. And suet cakes are a common feed for birds that can be formed with oats, nuts, seeds, solid fats, and raisins. These are an excellent source of nutrition for many types of birds.
In the Jewish religion, suet pudding is something that many will not partake in consuming. Jewish beliefs do not permit the consumption of anything that has involved an animal being used for sacrifice. It can easily be linked to the Jewish practice of not consuming pork or pork products, which contains suet as it is derived from the kidney’s outer layer tissue.
Before there was suet pudding, Christmas in the majority of the United Kingdom indulged in pottage. Pottage is a stew that is slowly cooked in a large pot or cauldron, with sugar, flavorful spices, and different dry fruit at hand. A suet dish was not looked at as a sweet dessert at first, but rather a way to keep food leftovers together, preventing unnecessary waste.
Suet pudding, as well as other dishes incorporating suet in its recipe, can be found throughout history and storybooks. Indeed, it is an acquired taste that has now become nostalgic for most Europeans.
Almost every region has a place where a group of people came together to call that place home. These places used the ingredients that were readily available to them to create their dishes and form their traditions.
These dishes, along with cooking styles, were then modified and further improved with the importation and introduction of spices and other ingredients from around the world. Food is truly a privilege.