December 14, 2010, by CocoaZilla
What are Sugar Plums?
Sure, I’ve heard of the sugar plums that occur in visions, dancing the night away and that there are fairies running around with the same moniker, but what IS a sugar plum anyway?
According to Wikipedia- it’s a “piece of dragee candy that is made of dried fruits in small round or oval shape.” OK- well it turns out that once upon a time that really could have been anything since a “plum” was used to denote any dried fruit. Nuts and various spices are also included into the mixture- but what about all those other variations?
Sugar Plum Jelly Candy
For the longest time, I thought this really was what a sugar plum was- a jelly plum flavored candy rolled in sugar crystals. I loved them! Chewy, lightly plummy with delicious sugar dusting- I could eat these all day. Turns out that’s just a confection created by the candy industry – get your own.
Sugar Plum Fruit
Believe it or not, there is an actual variety of plums called “sugar plum.” It looks like a giant purple grape and has a short season- the last week of July to the first two weeks of August. With a sugar range up to 25% it’s no wonder that this fruit goes by the name “sugar plum” as well as their more commonly known name “Italian Prune Plums.”
Make Your Own Sugar Plums
Any food investigated story always involves a trip to see what Alton Brown has to say about it. What can we say- the man does his homework.
* 6 ounces slivered almonds, toasted
* 4 ounces dried plums
* 4 ounces dried apricots
* 4 ounces dried figs
* 1/4 cup powdered sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
* 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
* 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
* Pinch kosher salt
* 1/4 cup honey
* 1 cup coarse sugar
Bissenger’s Sugar Plums
And now to the item that inspired this post in the first place- Bissinger’s Sugar Plums. No where in my research did I find any recipes or indications that a sugar plum is covered in chocolate candy, but that is what makes these unique and totally worth the purchase! A Bissinger sugar plum contains the following: almonds, glace apricots, dark chocolate, prunes, dates, sugar, honey, cinnamon, salt, orange extract, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, ginger.
So a lot of the components are there- dried fruit, nuts and spices. And of course dark chocolate.
It’s adorable. Visions of sugar plums dancing? Check. Cute little girl? Check. The back does shed a little more light on the “what is a sugar plum?” definition with this tidbit, “Circa 1668, small round candy with dried fruit, nuts and spices.”
Part of how these looked in the catalog is what inspired me to plunk down the $18 for 9. (Yeah, that part hurt a little.) They are so pretty though and the picture online and in catalog was exactly the same as the actual product- unlike the Big Mac you see on TV.
The smell when I opened the box didn’t overwhelm me with excitement at first, I know that Bissinger makes a good dark chocolate so I wasn’t worried about that- it was the dried fruit and spices thing that I feared most. True to form, it’s a good dark chocolate and at first I wasn’t crazy about the sugar plum part- then it started to grow on me. The way I think fruitcake sneaks up on as you become an adult. I definitely tasted the apricots, dates and cinnamon up top and then finishing with the orange. I didn’t catch a lot of the almond or prunes but all those spices did blend together nicely and as I finished my piece, I found myself reaching for another.
Bottom line: Know a foodie or looking for a chocolate adventure? Try a real sugar plum- chocolate coated or not!