Summer Pudding: The English Treat Designed To Use Up Extra Berries

When it comes to puddings, England has some of the tastiest and most famous varieties in the world. While for many North Americans, the term pudding may conjure up images of a specific creamy and dairy-rich dessert, British puddings describe a much wider category of foods. British puddings, while often alluding to dessert, can include both sweet or savory treats (Yorkshire pudding, anyone?). British puddings are often bread-y or cake-y, and they're usually paired with custard or other rich dairy products. They can also be prepared in several different ways, including being steamed, baked, boiled, or even fried.

Some of the most well-known British puddings include the interestingly named sponge pudding spotted dick, the nostalgic-for-many jam roly-poly, delightful sticky toffee pudding, and — another savory classic – steak and kidney pudding. While these well-known dishes have been staples in the nation for centuries, when it comes to embracing the rarer sunny day in England, there's almost nothing as refreshing as slicing into a sweet summer pudding.

Summer pudding is a simple no-bake dessert made from sliced white bread that's been soaked in fresh berry juice. Upon cutting into the pudding, chilled, soft berries will come spilling out, ready to be scooped up with some cream for the perfect bite. This stunning magenta-colored pudding is unlike any other, and there may be no better treat as fit for celebrating a garden party or being enjoyed around a backyard pool.

History of summer pudding

Most of the sweet English puddings that are still enjoyed today first became popularized during the 18th and 19th centuries, one of the oldest being classic bread and butter pudding. However, it wasn't until the later part of the 19th century that summer pudding finally started getting enjoyed by the masses. The first versions of this pudding were actually eaten piping hot, rather than being chilled like it is today. While several different types of berries can be enjoyed in today's renditions, the fruit of choice at the time was currants. Red currants were steamed along with sugar and bread to form the traditional version of this summer classic.

The change in the serving temperature happened several decades later when the dessert was enjoyed more for wellness purposes. Rather than being a simple treat eaten on hot days, this pudding was served in spas and went by the name hydropathic pudding. This is likely because it was considered a healthier dessert alternative to other richer, heavier dessert options.

Ingredients in summer pudding

While currents were the first fruits to be packed into the center of this pudding, a mix of several other berries are enjoyed today. Mixed berries, from strawberries to blackberries to raspberries, are often cooked down with sugar and poured in together. While frozen berries are appropriate to use, sourcing fresh berries is ideal, as they are in season and ripe during the summer months. Their juice also gives the bread its signature bright pinkish purple color.

White bread slices are what hold this entire pudding together. We know that wet, soaked-through bread may not sound like the most appetizing texture to bite into. However, when it is chilled with the berry juice, it becomes super refreshing and makes the perfect light dessert.

While there are only three essential components to this dish, the fruit, sugar, and bread, it wouldn't be complete without some sweet cream poured over the berries.

And, if you're making this at home, you will also need a little bit more than just the ingredients list checked off before diving into cooking mode. A pudding basin or bowl, cling wrap, and an optional strainer are some items used to construct this summertime staple. Keep reading to learn how to make this sweet treat.

How summer pudding is made and eaten

If you're new to the pudding game, then whipping up this simple no-bake dessert is a perfect place for beginners to start. The first step is creating your own fresh berry juice. Water, sugar, and all the fruit except strawberries get cooked until softened, and then the mixture is cooled.

Separately, crustless white bread gets dipped into the cooked fruits' juices. Once saturated, the bread, optionally sliced into triangles, gets pressed into a cling wrap-lined bowl or pudding basin. Once the bread completely covers the sides, all the berries and juice can be poured into the center. More dipped bread can be laid over the fruit.

The bowl should then be covered and weighed down. The pudding is left to chill in the fridge overnight. Then, when you're ready, you can pull out your refreshing pudding for whatever summertime occasion you're celebrating. Serving the dish with cream is ideal. Although, similarly cold dairy products, from custard to ice cream, are perfect to pair with this berry-filled treat.