Pop quiz time! Which of the following statements is true about sugar plums:
A: They are made with plums.
B: They are made with sugar.
C: All of the above.
D: None of the above.
If you guessed “none of the above” you are right, my friends. Sugar plums are neither plum nor sugar (okay, they are a small amount of honey and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, but no granulated sugar). Sugar plums are actually, kinda, totally healthy as far as holiday confections go. They are like LÄRABARS but without the fancy packaging and wide distribution.
If you are anything like me, your total sugar plum experience amounts to the Nutcracker and the oh so famous line in Twas the Night Before Christmas, but sugar plums are much more than just fodder for Christmas stories. Sugar plums are very real, very delicious holiday candies that are easy-as-can-be to make.
If these little balls of spiced deliciousness are plum-free, you are probably curious as to how they got their name. Apparently, at one time in the history of the English language, plum was used to mean any kind of dried fruit. And since this particular candy dates back to the 1660s, the name reflects its historical origins. Of course, you could use modern-day prunes (dried plums) in the recipe if you are a stickler for cohesiveness, but my recipe uses dried apricots and dates.
Want another dose of etymological fun? Apparently sugar plum was used as a slang in 18th century England to mean anything good or pleasurable. If you were told you had a “mouthful of sugar plums” you were someone who said sweet things. Soon after that, plum came to mean anything good in life. A ton of money, a good job, happy family, etc. It’s unclear if the poet that wrote “…while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads” in Twas the Night Before Christmas meant that the kids were literally thinking about the candy or figuratively thinking about all the good things in their life.
Fascinating. The things you learn while
Forgot to let you know — I made these for a Christmas family get-together, and they were a hit! Thank you for sharing the recipe and all the thought/research that went into it.
I have now made these three times and we love them. My two year old can’t get enough of them! They are also excellent with agave nectar and I plan to try making them with other kinds of nuts. Thanks Cassie!
How do you recommend storing them?
We just kept them in an airtight container in the fridge. They should last up to a month that way. 🙂
Wow, what an amazing recipe and super-healthy too! Loved the pictures. What a wonderful blog you have!
Thank you so much! 🙂
Yummy 🙂 I’ve never had a sugar plum and didn’t know much about them(except that they weren’t actual plums – no idea how I knew that, lol) They look delicious though, I’ll have to give them a try(especially with those spices and orange zest – yum!). I love any kind of larabar type treat 😀
Isn’t orange zest that absolute best? I swear, you can add it anything and it makes it so bright and yummy!
I really like this post! I didn’t know what sugar plums were, nor did I know about where the term ‘sugar plum’ for sweet things came from. I love that you put dried apricots in these- my favourite 🙂
I normally don’t love dried apricots, but the ones I got this time were so soft and delicious! Big fan.
fascinating! I always thought that when people said things were “Plum” that they were saying things were “Plumb” – even, level, exactly as they should be. Interesting to think that they were saying things were good/fine/dandy like Christmas Candy. 😀
I haven’t ever had a sugar plum but now I need to! Thanks for the history lesson. 🙂
I know what I’m making for the holidays! Yummy!