Kim who runs ‘Tunspit & Table‘ writes: England has been famous for its puddings for centuries, and the word is now interchangeable with dessert, but it wasn’t always so. Historically puddings were essentially sausages with a filling stuffed into the stomach or intestines of an animal (the word probably comes from the Anglo-Norman word bodin meaning entrails). Sometimes they were kind of like dumplings, cooked in the broth with the meat for dinner.
Some of these types of puddings have survived into modern times e.g. black pudding, white pudding and haggis, but many others fell by the wayside because there are several main problems with this technique. Firstly, the ick factor. Secondly, processing the intestines is time consuming and, if not done properly, can make people very sick. Thirdly, fresh entrails are only available when you have slaughtered an animal and even then the quantity is limited.
The result of all this was that sometime in the late 16th or early 17th century realised there was a better way – the pudding cloth! Instead of slaughtering an animal and then spending hours, if not days, soaking and cleaning the intestines all the home chef had to do was butter and flour a piece of tightly woven cloth (calico is ideal). It was easier, faster and a lot less messy, plus the cloth can be re-used over and over again.
The earliest pudding boiled in a cloth that I’m aware of is in John Murrell’s ‘A New Booke of Cookerie’ from 1615. His recipe for a Cambridge Pudding contains breadcrumbs, flour, dates, currants, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, suet, milk, sugar and eggs and most importantly, it’s boiled in a cloth. This however is the only pudding which he recommends using a cloth for, the other boiled puddings are all made in guts or cauls and he offers one fried pudding and one Italian baked pudding. By 1671 though napkins, bags and cloths were much more popular, used in 26 of Robert May’s recipes for puddings.
Based on a recipe for Quaking Pudding from “The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy” by Hannah Glasse. 1774
3 egg yolks, extra
2 cups cream
1/4 nutmeg, grated
1 1/2 tbsp rosewater
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp rice flour
20-30 g butter
A couple of tbsp of flour
Slivered almonds to decorate
For the sauce:
30 g butter, melted
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp rosewater
You will also need a large piece of unbleached cotton or calico (wash well in hot water prior to use), kitchen string and a very large saucepan.
 Fill the saucepan with water and bring to a rolling boil.
 Take the eggs and extra egg yolks and beat them with the cream. Stir in the grated nutmeg, rosewater and the salt. Add 1 tbsp rice flour and whisk till smooth.
 Lay the clean cloth on a flat surface and rub the butter into the cloth, squidging it in with your fingers to make a waxy barrier. Spread the flour over the buttered cloth, then carefully lift the cloth into a round bottomed bowl.
 Pour the mixture into the cloth. Gather the edges of the cloth and tie tightly, leaving a bit of room for the mixture to expand. Place gently into the boiling water and boil for 60 mins.
 Using tongs, carefully remove the pudding from the water. Cut the string and very gently unwrap the pudding. If as you begin to unwrap the pudding you find that it is still liquid you will need to carefully retie the string and boil the pudding for longer.
 To make the sauce mix the melted butter, sugar and rosewater together. Stud the pudding with the almonds and serve with the sauce.