Pease-pudding in the pot,
Nine days old;
Some like it hot,
Some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot,
Nine days old.
Included in James Orchard Halliwell’s 1846 publication The Nursery Rhymes of England as a clapping game, the precise origin of the “Pease Pudding Hot” rhyme is unknown. Whoever wrote the familiar ditty was obviously someone who knew all about the tasty dish known as PEASE PUDDING.
Sometimes called pease pottage or pease porridge, culinary history records the first mention as pease pudding in a 14th century recipe book titled The Forme of Cury: A Roll of Ancient English Cookery Compiled, about A.D. 1390 (link here to read on Gutenberg)
Take and seeþ [white] pesoun and take oute þe perry; & perboile erbis & hewe hem grete, & cast hem in a pot with the perry. Pulle oynouns & seeþ hem hole wel in water, & do hem to þe perry with oile & salt; colour it with safroun & messe it, and cast þeron powdour douce.
No, I have no idea what all that means either! Apparently the cooks from those days-of-yore did, however, since pease pudding remained a very popular dish for hundreds of years. Famed diarist Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) wrote, “At noon I went home and dined with my wife on pease porridge and nothing else…” Variations of the dish were widespread throughout England’s regions, recipes found in multiple publications during the 1700s.
At its most basic and original form, pease pudding is a savory pudding dish made of boiled legumes, which mainly consists of split yellow or Carlin peas, water, salt, and spices, and is often cooked with a bacon or ham joint. It is smooth and very thick, almost solid, and has a dark yellow color. It can be re-heated as often as required (hence the “nine-days-old” line in the rhyme) and is sometimes served with egg, mashed potato, and as a topping on toast or inside a sandwich. (see images above)
This recipe for pease pudding is in The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse, published in 1747 —
To make a pease-pudding.
BOIL it till it is quite tender, then take it up, until it, stir in a good piece of butter, a little salt, and a good deal of beaten pepper, then tie it up tight again, boil it an hour longer, and it will eat fine.
The always reliable Isabella Beeton including this recipe in her 1861 The Book of Household Management —
INGREDIENTS: 1-½ pint of split peas, 2 oz. of butter, 2 eggs, pepper and salt to taste.
MODE: Put the peas to soak over-night, in rain-water, and float off any that are wormeaten or discoloured. Tie them loosely in a clean cloth, leaving a little room for them to swell, and put them on to boil in cold rain-water, allowing 2-½ hours after the water has simmered up. When the peas are tender, take them up and drain; rub them through a colander with a wooden spoon; add the butter, eggs, pepper, and salt; beat all well together for a few minutes, until the ingredients are well incorporated; then tie them tightly in a floured cloth; boil the pudding for another hour, turn it on to the dish, and serve very hot. This pudding should always be sent to table with boiled leg of pork, and is an exceedingly nice accompaniment to boiled beef.
TIME: 2-½ hours to boil the peas, tied loosely in the cloth; 1 hour for the pudding.
SUFFICIENT: for 7 or 8 persons.