If you’ve existed in the U.S. during the months of November and December, then you’ve heard the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Perhaps you’ve sung the aforementioned Christmas carol, maybe even while going around to random people’s homes. But even if you’re not a humongous choir nerd like me, you’ve probably at least heard the part of the song that goes, “Now bring us some figgy pudding […] We won’t go until we get some,” and thought to yourself, “What is this figgy pudding and why is it causing these rude house guests to overstay their welcome?”
Well good tidings for you, my friend, because I’m going to ‘splain the ol’ pudding to you right here right now because I know explanations are a lot like figgy pudding and you won’t go ‘til you get some.
What is Figgy Pudding, like, actually?
Figgy pudding is “pudding” in the British sense of the word, not in the American sense. That means it is not a custard-like substance that comes in little plastic cups. It’s actually a dense, steamed cake. Also called “Christmas pudding” or “plum pudding,” traditional figgy pudding typically comprises flour, breadcrumbs, suet, sugar, eggs, brandy, and dried fruits, like raisins and currants. Now you’re probably thinking what I was thinking: “Oh okay! …wait, what the heck is suet?” Suet, as it turns out, is not just the motto of lawyers everywhere. It is, in fact, a specific kind of beef fat. So this cake is really just flour, fat, egg, and sugar (in other words, a cake), with a boozy, dried fruity, Christmassy twist. Nothing to be scared of at all, and definitely a good reason to refuse to leave a party.
How did Figgy pudding become a Christmas thing?
According to the Daring Gourmet, its precursor was a 14th century wet porridge made of “boiled figs, water, wine, ground almonds, raisins, and honey.” It later morphed into a more solid dish that included ground meat and some form of grain, then it became a steamed pudding (or cake, really) that included raisins. It was only ever called plum pudding because Victorian-era British people called raisins plums, those tricky Brits. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s, though, that this dish had anything to do with Christmas, and that’s all thanks to Eliza Acton’s cookbook, Modern Cookery for Private Families, which calls the recipe for this specific thing “Christmas Pudding.” The rest is figgy pudding history.
Where can I get figgy pudding these days?
Well, the easiest way would be to watch The Great British Baking Show while eating some normal American cake and just imagine that it’s a big ol’ piece of Christmas pudding. The second easiest way would be to make it yourself from one of the countless figgy pudding recipes online these days. And then, lastly, there’s always the option of buying one somewhere. Turns out you can get a prepackaged one at Walmart, or find a fresh one in your local British bakery (assuming you have a local British bakery). Or, if you are feeling super adventurous, just pick up some figgy pudding-flavored SPAM! Yes, that is actually their holiday flavor this year, so if you want a hunk of canned meat that tastes like “cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves, along with … fig and orange flavors,” then this product is right up your alley.
We’ve learned a lot here today, folks, but really and truly, if you like wet cakes that taste like dried fruits, booze, and warm spices, give figgy pudding a try! And if you like all that stuff plus meat, give the SPAM Figgy Pudding a try (it’s sold out on their site, but people are selling cans on eBay).
And with that, happy holidays to all, and to all, a pud-night.