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December 24, 2011

You’ve probably sung the words a zillion times… “Oh bring us some figgy pudding!” But my guess is that, like me, you’ve never actually eaten figgy pudding.

I actually began researching fig pudding recipes about a month ago when my eldest daughter, in the midst of a rousing chorus of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” turned to me and said, “What exactly is figgy pudding anyway?” In my infinite motherly wisdom, I responded with “It’s a pudding…. made with figs.”

Fig pudding dates back to the mid 1600’s and was a traditional English Christmas dessert-and it’s more like a bread, in my opinion, that what we think of these days as a pudding.  There are dozens of recipes available online-and two main methods for cooking it-steaming or baking.   Steaming is a more traditional method-it takes longer but also leaves you with a product that lasts longer-a big plus for old world cooks without a refrigerator or a handy supply of Tupperware.  Although the idea of steaming slightly unnerved me, I decided to try it… just because I’d never done it!

After searching through countless recipes, I landed on the one below-first published in 1881 in “Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book.” According to Foodtourist.com, Maria Parloa was the 19th century version of Julia Child… a lecturer, columnist, and author of some 13 cookbooks. I liked this recipe because it leans on the sweet side-some of the other recipes I encountered sounded too much like mincemeat pie.  I did make a few of my own adjustments and the steaming part turned out to be quite easy!

Miss Parloa’s Recipe for Fig Pudding:


    • 1 cupful of molasses
    • 1 cupful of chopped suet
    • 1 cupful of milk
    • 3 1/4 cupfuls of flour
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 teaspoonful of soda
    • 1 teaspoonful of cinnamon
    • 1/2 a teaspoonful of nutmeg
    • 1 pint of figsMix together the molasses, suet, spice, and the figs, cut fine. Dissolve the soda with a tablespoonful of hot water, and mix with the milk. Add to the other ingredients. Beat the eggs light, and stir into the mixture. Add the flour, and beat thoroughly. Butter two small or one large brown bread mould. Turn the mixture into the mould or moulds, and steam five hours. Serve with creamy or wine sauce.Suet, if you are curious, is hard beef fat found around the loins or kidneys of animals.  In the vintage kitchen, all parts of an animal were used-none were wasted.  I have heard that cooking suet is available in some grocery stores-to be honest, I didn’t look for it. I used Crisco and I halved it because the thought of adding a cup of Crisco made my arteries involuntarily harden.  I also added cloves, because it is one of my favorite spices and is a perfect compliment to molasses.  I reduced the amount of flour slightly and used a half of pint of figs, which were plenty! Here is my version:
    • Ingredients

      • 1 cup of molasses
      • 1/2 cup of Crisco
      • 1 cup of milk
      • 3 cups of flour
      • 2 eggs
      • 1 teaspoonful of baking soda
      • 1 teaspoonful of cinnamon
      • 1/2  teaspoonful of nutmeg
      • 1/2 teaspoonful of clovesMix together the molasses, Crisco, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and the figs, cut up with a set of kitchen shears (refrigerate the figs for a half an hour to make them firmer and less sticky when cutting.) Dissolve the  baking soda with a tablespoonful of hot water, and mix with the milk. Add to the other ingredients. Beat the eggs slightly, and stir into the mixture. Add the flour, and beat thoroughly.

When it was all beaten together, the batter resembled my favorite pumpkin bread-fluffy and sweet. I chose to use a regular bread pan as my mold. Grease it well!

To steam it, I set the oven at 350 degrees. I put a greased piece of foil tightly over the bread mold and set it inside a large casserole dish. Then I added about two to three inches of hot tap water, until the water came about halfway up the mold.

I let the pudding steam like that for two hours. Steaming time recommendations vary for puddings-from two to five hours and I really had just decided to check it at the two hour mark, but it was plenty done by that time. Turn the pudding out immediately onto a serving tray and garnish. It’ll fill your house with a warm, gingerbread-like smell. Serve it warm with a couple of spoonfuls of warm vanilla cream sauce-made by beating 1/4 cup of softened butter with a half a cup of powdered sugar, 1/4 cup plus four tablespoons of heavy whipping cream, and a tablespoon of vanilla extract. Warm the sauce in the microwave for a minute before spooning over the pudding. It was really delicious-my girls loved it!

And now, you can make this little Christmas gem and always be prepared in the event that carolers come knocking, demanding traditional English Christmas desserts! Merry Christmas from my family to yours!