I personally have never had a sugar plum. I’m guessing they are dried plums dipped in sugar, but really I have no idea. I do like the sugar plum fairy, as in the ballet, The Nutcracker, but I don’t know how similar the SPF is to the food.
Yesterday, I had a chance to see pint sized plums in action at my nephew’s ballet class. He and the rest of the dancers (all girls) were rehearsing for their Winter performance. I should mention that they are three years old. Imagine an unruly line of tots in tutus and one strong boy in black tights and you can imagine how wonderfully fun it was. There was plenty of squirming and sillies while they tried to move into second position. Their upcoming recital is to the song What a Wonderful World (Louie Armstrong version) and it was absolutely precious to see them flapping their butterfly arms while they shouted out the words. They might not have been dancing to Tchaikovsky, but they were sweet nonetheless.
So these little dancers got me thinking about sugar plums. What are these elusive treats that inspired the ballet dance? I did a little recipe searching and wow, there are clearly no firm guidelines for what gets labeled a “sugar plum”. I found pieces of candy mixed with chopped pineapple, cherries surround by oatmeal, breads and cakes. It’s doubtful that most of these concoctions would have even been available in 19th century Russia. So what is the real deal? Well, I have found a recipe for drying and sugaring plums, updated from a 16th century version. For those interested in drying their own plums, check it out here. I also found an interesting discussion about a dried fruit and nut version, inspired by Turkish candies. Given that The Nutcracker has an exotic local, maybe this is what Tchaikovsky had in mind when he wrote the music.
So the dried sugared fruit or the nut/fruit concoction – I don’t know which is the real “sugar plum” treat of Tchaikovsky and Twas the Night Before Christmas. I guess the only visions of sugar plums dancing in my head will be those little ballerinas/ballet dancer working on their pirouettes.