Friday, December 9, 2011

Figgy Pudding

I received a request for a post topic from my good friend Ms.Chloe. She asked if I could research the history of figgy pudding, find out what it is, and why are the carolers so demanding of it in the classic Christmas song "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"? I have often wondered about this myself. An excellent suggestion Ms.Chloe!
Figgy pudding is a close relative of plum pudding and the traditional Christmas pudding, and is probably just as old. The three names are sometimes used interchangeable though they are actually somewhat different. Both date back to medieval times, when it originally started as a porridge served on Christmas morning including chopped raisins, plums or figs, and suet. As time went on bread crumbs were added, then later eggs and eventually they became the puddings we know today. For American readers, please note the word "pudding" is not specific to custards in the UK, but used generally to mean "dessert".
Christmas and figgy puddings are more like a cake, though are steamed rather than baked, so are quite moist. They are a dense dessert made with chopped figs (in the case of the figgy kind) raisins and dates (in the case of Christmas pudding), flour, sugar, eggs, brandy or rum and spices. The batter is cooked in a bowl, or bundt pan, inside a larger vessel of boiling water, effectively steming the dish and cooking it very evenly. It can even be cooked weeks ahead of time, as like fruitcake it can last a long time. Both types are sometimes doused in either brandy or rum and set alight for a visual treat. There is also a lovely sweet sauce, something like an icing, that is often drizzled overtop, which I find quite lovely.
Mmm Christmas Pudding..

As for why the carolers are so demanding..I'm not sure about their rudeness, but it was a tradition from at least Medieval times for the poor to go from house to house singing at this time of year, in return for food or drink (also called wassailing). "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" is a 16th century  British West Country carol that mentions the delight of figgy pudding. While I have tried Christmas pudding (and enjoy it), I have not tried figgy pudding so it remains a mystery to me. It must be good though to have people demand it so much.

Here is a little video from Horrible Histories (love these guys) about the history of caroling.

Have you tried figgy or Christmas pudding? What are your thoughts of it?


  1. I love Horrible Histories too. Thanks for sharing this information! Never had figgy or Christmas pudding before- will have to give it a shot!

  2. I now have an urge to Google a recipe to make one of those delightful sugar coated Christmas balls up there. And hey - anything soaked in rum is A-Okay with me.

  3. Ah, this brought back memories of my college choir's Boarshead Festival in which we sang that carol. I always wondered what was so great about figgy pudding and why anyone would be so insistent about it. We also sang "Here We Go A-Wassailing" and never had a clue as to what that was ... except there's a type of cider/punch called wassail, isn't there? but that never made sense in the song. LOL You've solved two of mysteries in one post. Good-on-ya! I'd never heard of Horrible Histories, so thanks for the introduction. I'm going to check them out.