“Each year I tell my family I’m finally going to make a Figgy Pudding for Christmas. No one seems very enthusiastic.”—C. Williams.
“So bring us a Figgy pudding and bring it right now!”—Traditional carol.
Bring a what?
A Figgy Pudding is an early version of the Christmas Pudding. In this case, the most important ingredient would be rich, sweet figs, along with, “butter, sugar, eggs, milk, rum, apple, lemon and orange peel, nuts, cinnamon, cloves and ginger! Not dissimilar to the modern day Christmas Puddings!” 1
Last week we discussed ‘Stir Up Sunday,’November 25, the last Sunday before Advent and the traditional deadline for mixing up your family’s Christmas pudding so it will have time to mellow before its starring role as the flaming finale to the Christmas feast.
To review, ‘pudding’ is the British English term for dessert (as in, ‘hey mom, what’s for pud’?) The ‘Christmas Pudding’ is also known as a ‘Plum Pudding’ (as in Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol) or a ‘Figgie Pudding’ (as in the carol) and would be called a fruitcake in the States. In the case of the Christmas Pudding, the cake is boiled rather than baked.
(I know you’re making that face. Trust me. Make your own fruit cake, omit the nasty neon green citron, substitute roasted macadamias, pineapple and coconut then tell me you don’t like fruit cake. Feed it spiced rum and—you get the idea…)
In 1845 in her ‘Modern Cooking for Private Families,’ Eliza Acton is credited as being the first to christen the Figgy or Plum pudding as a Christmas Pudding. The UK’s Telegraph recently tested Mrs. Acton’s recipe against pudding recipes from four of the country’s most popular celebrity chefs. 2
The results? The 167-year-old recipe won the competition with a perfect five out of five. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of www.zesterdaily.com:3
Eliza Acton’s Traditional English Christmas Pudding
Miss Acton recommends this as a remarkably light, small, rich pudding to be boiled in a cloth in traditional style, though, she says, it can also be cooked in a bowl.
3 ounces plain all-purpose flour
3 ounces finely grated bread crumbs
6 ounces grated suet
6 ounces raisins
6 ounces currants
2 ounces candied peel
4 ounces grated apple
5 ounces brown sugar
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon grated mace or cinnamon
Small glass brandy
3 medium eggs
Batter is much lighter when boiled in a cloth, and allowed full room to swell, than when confined in a mould [bowl]: it should be well beaten the instant before it is poured into it, and put into the water immediately after it is securely tied. The cloth should be moist and thickly floured, and the pudding should be sent to table as expeditiously as possible after it is done, as it will quickly become heavy.
Mix and beat all the ingredients together, tie them in a well-floured cloth (scald it first), push a wooden spoon through the loops of the cloth and suspend it in a full pan of boiling water. Bring the water back to the boil, turn down the heat a little, and lid. Boil the pudding for 3½ hours. Unwrap the pudding onto a warm plate and set in a medium oven for 10 minutes to form a rich dark skin.
If you prefer to boil the pudding in a bowl, butter it first. Drop in the batter: It should fill it nearly to the top. Lid with a circle of buttered kitchen paper. Tie a clean cloth over it, with a fold so that the pudding can expand. Boil for 3½ hours in a pan of water that comes three-quarters of the way up the bowl. Keep it loosely lidded, and take care to keep the level topped up with boiling water. After 3½ hours, when it is ready, let the pudding stand in its bowl for five minutes before it is dished, to prevent its breaking. You can store this pudding under a clean cloth. It will need 2 hours to reheat and lighten again. To flame it, make sure that the brandy is warmed before you pour it over and set it alight.
Finally, for you food historians, the Oxford Dictionaries Blog has an excellent entry entitled ‘The Christmas Table’ that delves into the history of this dessert.4
So who’s with me? Raise your pudding spoons high, and let’s serve up a Figgy Pudding this Christmas and revive a delicious tradition!