Updated: Dec 21, 2022
Your Ultimate Guide at bringing a touch of Scottish and Baird Traditions, both old and new, to your holidays throughout the year. We will look at both Highland and lowland traditions and how incorporating elements of Scottish Traditions, even old lost traditions, into your life can help you protect and pass culture and heritage. Today, we look at making a traditional Scottish dessert, the Clootie Dumpling!
Few things evoke memories of the holidays as much as a the Clootie Dumpling. Its preparation, presentation, aroma, and taste bring instant remembrances of home cooked meals surrounded by friends and family. Even for those experimenting for the first time, the taste of a Clootie Dumpling connects an individual to hundreds of years of traditional cooking and culture. There are few desserts or meals that can connect a person to their heritage like a clootie dumpling.
So, what is a Clootie Dumpling?
A Clootie Dumpling is defined as "... a Scottish dessert traditionally made of dried fruit, spices, oatmeal or breadcrumbs, flour, and beef suet." However, that doesn't begin to break done what one of the tastiest Scottish desserts actually is or why it is called a Clootie Dumpling. Nor does it describe the myriad of variations found in different regions and different homes. Almost every hearth and kitchen has a "special recipe" that is slightly different enough to make it memorable and stand out from the rest.
Before we dive into the recipe, we need to ask why this dessert is called a Clootie Dumpling. Clootie Dumpling is a pudding. Right there, most people in the United States begin to get lost. After all, there is no custard involved in the making of a Clootie Dumpling and it clearly looks like a spherical cake. The term Pudding, outside of the United States, refers to dishes, particularly desserts, that are boiled. Some savory dishes, such as Haggis and black pudding are also puddings. This gives us our first sense of what we are doing, specifically, we are going to boil a cake.
The next word to dive into is the term Clootie. This comes from the Scots language meaning a strip of Cloth. This term can also be seen the Clootie Well. Clootie wells are holy wells or sacred springs surrounded by trees where since perhaps pre-historic times, individuals have tied a Clootie or Cloot to a tree in hopes of being healed. A Clootie is cloth or strip of cloth that is wrapped around around the pudding so it can be boiled.
(Fun Fact - near New Aberdour is St. Drostan's well that was well known holy well that the Baird's were well acquainteded. It was not, and is not, a clootie well however. Please don't go tie clootie or strips of cloth around it.)
This is a timeless Scottish recipe. Today's recipe comes from the Hebridean Baker. Coinneach Mackeod from the Isle of Lewis wrote a wonderful cookbook filled with history, culture, and stories of Highlanders, Vikings and Scots. I strongly recommend you purchase Coinneach Macleod's book as well as the audio book to hear his island lilt. You can also read his blog post on Historic Scotland about this Christmas Recipe.
As with all ingredients in Scottish recipes, remember that for those in North America, the measurements are slightly different. Coinneach recommends this be served warm with custard or served the next day fried in bacon fat for breakfast. He also gives a lot more tips for North American bakers in his book such as using caster sugar. Regardless, this is an amazing recipe.
225g (1 3/4 North American cups) plain flour
1 tsp (3/4 North American tsp.) baking soda
1 tsp (3/4 North American tsp.) Mixed Spice/Pumpkin Spice
1 tsp (3/4 North American tsp.) Cinnamon
Pinch of Salt
175g (1 North American Cup) Sugar
100g (3.5 oz.) Suet/shortening
100g (3.5 oz.) Sultanas
75g (2.6 oz.) Currants
75g (2.6 oz.) Raisins
1 Grated Apple
150 (1/2 North American Cup) ml Buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp (1 North American tbsp) Black treacle/molasses
Clean Muslin Cloth (dye free, never been used before linen cloth....trust me.)
Section 2: Add Numbered Directions
Now, its time to make a clootie dumpling
Set a large pot (deep enough to cover the dumpling) on the stove on high and fill with water. Bring it to a boil.
Sieve the flour and all the dry ingredients into the bowl (baking soda, mixed spice, cinnamon, and salt.)
Add sugar, suet/shortening, raisins, currants, and apple and stir together.
Finally mix the buttermilk, beaten egg, and black treacle.
Soak a muslin cloth, or dish cloth, with boiling water and set aside until cool enough to touch.
Wring the cloth out, and spread it out on the work surface.
Sprinkle liberally with flour.
Place the dumpling mixture in the center of the cloth. pull the sides together to make a small sack and tie to together around the top. Leave enough space in the "bag" or clootie for the dumpling to expand.
In the large pot, place a sauce upside down in the water. This will keep the dumpling from resting on the bottom of the pot.
Place the clootie dumpling on the saucer, cover with a lid and simmer for 3 hours. Check occasionaly and refill the water as needed to ensure it doesn't evaporate.
Take the clootie dumpling out of the pan and carefully remove the clootie being careful not to remove the "skin" or out smooth outer layer. Let it cool for 30 minutes.
Serve with custard or vanilla ice cream while warm.
This holiday season add a touch of Scottish heritage by making a Clootie Dumpling. If you have made it before, what did you think? Do you have a better recipe? lSubscribe and eave a comment below.