Where has all the suet gone?

4 12 2008

I know I should have had my Christmas puddings made by now, but somehow I didn’t get round to it and then decided that it would have to be done this week. First of all I had to search for pudding bowls as I’d thrown out all my specially made, just the right size, Glenshee Pottery pudding bowls. I managed eventually to find what I wanted in the local Pharmacy! Then I set off to Sobey’s with my shopping list. I had a bit of trouble finding currants and sultanas till I realised that they are all raisins but currants are Raisins de Corinthe, sultanas are Sultana Raisins and raisins are Thompson Raisins. I’d crossed the first hurdle but the next fence was a far greater obstacle. After a complete search of the store I went to the ever helpful Customer Service. The girl there looked at me as if I was speaking in a foreign language, other than Scottish and called over another older assistant. She too looked blankly at me, but thought she knew someone who could help. She led me to the main store ‘orderer’ and said ‘This lady is looking for’ and turned to me to finish the sentence with ‘suet’. He didn’t look completely ignorant of the word and thought we would get it at the meat counter. This totally confused the assistant as she asked, ‘Oh, for the birdies?’ I told her it was not suet for the birdies but for Christmas Puddings. Again, I received a look of disbelief. The chap at the meat counter took us to a freezer where there were trays of sort of minced suet. I have been brought up with suet being Atora Suet in a packet and was not too keen on this – obviously fatty layer from an animal. I declined the offer and the assistant said she didn’t blame me she wouldn’t eat that either. But now she knows what suet is.

Atora - just as I remember it.

Atora - just as I remember it.

I have started a search online for Atora and came up with this information which I think is absolutely useless but interesting.

Suet (clarified beef fat) had one of its first mentions in a recipe of 1617 as a key ingredient for ‘Cambridge pudding’ served to students at that university. At this time, suet was time consuming to use and prepare, and involved removing the fat from beef, clarifying it over heat, and chopping it ready for use.

Through time, it was common to be able to find blocks of suet at grocers, however, it was not until 1893 that the first pre-shredded suet became available. It was the brainchild of Gabriel Hugon, a French man living in Manchester. He observed his wife struggling to cut blocks of suet in the kitchen and set about to create ready shredded suet.

He called his product ‘Atora’, derived from ‘toro’ the Spanish word for bull. To reinforce this connection, up until World War II, the suet was transported around the country by painted wagons pulled by six pairs of Hereford bulls.

The brand was bought by Rank Hovis McDougall, the millers, in 1963, and along with the rest of the group, became part of Premier Foods in March 2007.

And I just took ATORA for granted.




3 responses

6 12 2008

I bought some suet yesterday but I’m afraid it was for the birdies!

8 12 2008
Anne Logie

Hi Jackie
A good laugh.I could have sent you some out.I`m getting my pudd`s at Tesco`s this year.
Love Anne

14 12 2008
Fiona Kelly

Dear Jackie,
What a search – glad you’re still making your own puddings in your new home – shame I’ve never got round to making them here in the UK with all the familiar ingredients to hand – but I could still make a bowl to cook them in, which is what pleases me. Any potting likely to happen in Canada for you? Christmas card on its way – have a grand festive time with lots of snow.

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