What Is Clootie?

Marisa O'Connor

A clootie is a traditional Scottish dessert pudding. This dessert is named after the cloot, or cloth, it is prepared in. It is often served at special occasions, such as Christmas, birthdays, and Burns Night. It is a recipe that has been passed down generation after generation. It is most common in Scottish families for the older generation, such as the grandparents, to be in charge of making the clootie, as it is a somewhat tricky recipe and takes some time to master.

Some people enjoy jam with their clootie.
Some people enjoy jam with their clootie.

In a 2003 survey of 6,000 people by the Food Trust Scotland, the clootie was named as one of the top 10 traditional Scottish foods. This dessert was made during special occasions and is specifically known as a birthday tradition. Part of the birthday tradition was to have the whole family smack, or skelp, the dough in the cloot so it formed a nice round shape. Being the last person to give it a slap was reserved for the birthday boy or girl. Wrapped coins used to be placed in the clooties before cooking them.

The clootie can be prepared with a variety of different ingredients. The traditional recipe includes flour, dried currants, and shredded beef suet. Sugar, eggs, milk, and molasses are also essential. Animal fat in the beef suet can be substituted with vegetable fat to make this dessert edible for vegetarians. Different spices and fruit can also be experimented with in this versatile recipe. It can be made a sweet or savory treat by serving it with butter and jam or tomatoes and bacon, respectively.

The recipe for the clootie dates back before the modern stove was invented. Back in those days, most food was prepared over an open flame in a large pot. This dessert was no exception and can still be prepared that way today. The ingredients are mixed together and wrapped in a cloth, or cloot, which is first dipped in boiling water and sprinkled with flour. A little bit of room should be left in the cloot to allow the dessert to expand before it is tightly sealed with twine.

The clootie is referred to as a pudding or dumpling. Dumpling is an accurate way to describe it, as it is cooked like a dumpling. The dessert, wrapped in a cloot, is cooked in boiling water for about three and a half hours. Once the time is up, the cloth is removed and the dumpling is placed in front of a fire or in an oven to dry.

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