[Sca-cooks] Sugarplums or Hais?

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Sun Dec 6 15:22:38 PST 2009

I think this type of sweetmeat probably predates (the word) hais.  I 
suspect, but cannot prove that it dates to the Late Neolithic and the 
domesticated honeybee with honey being found from England through the Levant 
and on to parts East (there is at least one reference to Borneo). 
Sweetmeats of ground nutsedge tubers and honey show up in Egyptian tombs 
from the 4th Millenia BCE to Ptolemic Egypt.

Sugarplum, as a word, appears to have a Late 17th Century origin, so while 
some of the ingredients would need to be imported, they would likely have 
been available, thus the recipe can not be directly attributed to a Middle 
Eastern source.  The earliest European variant I've located is from Apicius, 
although I think it is made as a small cake rather than a ball.


>I just caught the last few minutes of Alton Brown's new Christmas show,
> featuring roasted duck, stuffing, and sugarplums.  (One of my students is
> Tiny Tim).  Watching the recipe he makes for SugarPlums, I am struck at 
> just
> how similar they are to Hais.  He uses almonds, prunes, apricots and dates
> in a food processor, then mixes that with honey, fine sugar, spices and
> rolls the whole thing up into balls, then rolls in more sugar.  When I 
> make
> Hais, I use almonds and pistachios, dates and sugar, sometimes with other
> spices and sometimes not.  They are a bit hit at Pennsic.  Are we looking 
> at
> this form of sugar plums being a direct descendant of the Middle Eastern
> hais balls?
> Christianna

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