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Shetland puddeens

Shetland puddeens traditionally are steamed in a sheep’s stomach but  a plain pudding cloth--that is, a tea towel or dishcloth--works just as well. The stomach is but a holdover from the early modern period. It was not until the late seventeenth century that a clever cook realized the animal casing was unnecessary, and so began the revolutionary proliferation of puddings throughout the British Isles. This particular pudding sounds odd in its collision of savory and sweet flavors but the combination in fact creates a harmonious whole. This recipe is based on Marian Armitage’s from her Shetland Food and Cooking.


  • 2 lb flour
  • 1 lb mixed dried fruit of your choice (apricots, currants, dates, raisins…. )
  • 1 quart milk
  • 2 minced onions
  • 1 Tablespoon mixed spice (see the Notes)
  • 1 lb suet (see the Notes)
  • ¾ lb golden syrup



  1. Mix everything together, form the pudding into a cylinder and wrap it in a pudding cloth, tying the ends with twine.
  2. Slide the puddeens into a pot of boiling salted water and simmer the pudding gently until firm, usually in about four hours.
  3. Slices of the puddeens may be eaten hot or cold; cold puddeens may be browned in a frying pan or on a griddle.


-As Armitage advises, “change to a darker colour is an indication of when the puddeens are done; dark blotches where the dried fruit has softened can also be seen.”

-For some reason ‘puddeens’ always appears in the plural.

-Puddeens traditionally are eaten for breakfast or at high tea and are, as Armitage notes, “truly delicious with bacon.” They make a fine dessert.

-A plethora of proprietary brands of mixed spice is available throughout the United Kingdom and mixed spice sometimes appears in American supermarket spice racks. A ‘typical’ blend may include varying proportions of allspice, cinnamon, clove, dried coriander, ginger, mace and nutmeg.

-If you select dates or apricots among your dried fruit, chop them small.

Traditional Shetland puddeens use sheeps’ suet, which is virtually impossible to find outside the Northern Isles. Beef or vegetable suet are entirely acceptable alternatives. Atora suet is ubiquitous in the United Kingdom and ideal, but unavailable in the United States (an unnecessary hangover from the BSE scare). Atora vegetarian suet is a viable substitute and may be found at specialty shops and online. Fresh suet is easy to find and easy to shred yourself.

-Tate & Lyle golden syrup now is widely available even in American supermarkets.