Since figgy pudding needs to age 4-5 weeks, this is the weekend to make it! Goodbye Thanksgiving. Hello Christmas!
As you may remember, the sweet is mentioned in the classic English Christmas carol, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
But, what is it? It not a pudding in the way Americans know pudding. It's more of a steamed dense cake, like Boston Brown Bread.
I asked Charles Perry, the president of the Culinary Historians of Southern California, about it and he said, "As I recall, it was a steamed English pudding but the figs were often replaced with raisins, just like the 'plum' in Jack Horner's Christmas pie. People were more easily thrilled by raisins in the 19th century, or maybe this is just Victorian home cooks doing things on the cheap."
He also told me there was an article on the topic of figgy pudding in an early issue of Petits Propos Culinaires, which is a publication I'd never heard of, but am now thinking about gifting it to myself for Christmas. It's a journal of the history of food and cookery. According to wikipedia, many of the articles also served to enrich the Oxford Companion to Food, which may also somehow find its way under my Christmas tree this year.
Basically, figgy pudding is fruitcake, and it is currently steaming on my stove as I type this. It has to go 5-6 hours, so I will be burning the midnight oil once again on account of this delightful baking habit I've developed.
I followed a recipe posted on NPR from the Historic Green Spring House in Alexandria, Virginia.
I must admit, I'm a little nervous about the fact that it calls for suet. It's a by-product of all the bone broth I've been making. And from what I've read about it, it was a cooking fat widely used in English baking until the mid-twentieth century, but is less common now. I hope it tastes good.
Figgy Pudding Recipe
9 oz. brown sugar
9 oz. suet (raw beef or mutton fat)
14 oz. golden raisins
14 oz. raisins
9 oz. currants
5 oz. chopped candied orange peel
5 oz. plain flour
5 oz. white or brown bread crumbs
grated zest of one lemon
5 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 cup brandy
Mix all of the ingredients together. Then grease a pudding basin and pour the mixture in. Secure the lid, and place in a pot of boiling water and cover the pot with a lid.
Boil for 5-6 hours, checking every so often the water level in the pot. Add water as needed. When done, let cool. Then store in a cool, dry place until Christmas Day! Steam 1-2 hours before serving.
Place on table. Douse with brandy and set aflame.