Bedfordshire Clanger, Bedfordshire
An area’s traditional dishes offer a view of the economic conditions that once held there. The Bedfordshire clanger, originally a hefty boiled suet pudding with a meat filling, the outside studded with fruit if circumstances allowed, was the food of farm labourers, portable cold or eaten hot on returning home. It was cheap, filling and very calorific. As the pudding could be left simmering away all day, ready for the family's evening return, it suited an area where many of the women were employed outside the home in the 19th century.
Fillings would of course vary according to the pockets of the family. For some the cheapest cuts of bacon would be the norm. For the more affluent fresh pork or beef would be more acceptable.
The derivation of the word clanger is obscure. Some think it is a local word meaning to stuff oneself, to trough. An alternative suggestion is that the solidity of the dish means ‘clanger’ implies it would make a loud noise if dropped. A third option is that clanger is linked to the dialect word ‘claggy’, meaning soft, substantial and sticky.
Although suet puddings don’t fit well with our generally less active lives, the clanger has survived, indeed it is celebrated in Bedfordshire at various country events where clanger eating contests are sometimes held. And the clanger has been adapted, nowadays more likely to be baked rather than boiled in a cloth, and with two fillings, one sweet, one savoury, in place of the old meat filling/fruit decoration method, though the spirit of the thing remains – a meal in one dish, solid and satisfying.