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TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Figgy Pudding

“Oh, bring us figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer,” goes the carol, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Don’t know the carol? Sing with the bouncing ball.

If you start now, you can have a homemade figgy pudding at Christmas.

WHAT’S A FIGGY PUDDING?

A distant cousin of the fruit cake, figgy pudding is a traditional fig-based cake, which became common in England in the 1600s. Christmas pudding has been celebrated in song at least since then. Countless carolers sing for it every year. (But do they get a slice?)

Thought to bring luck and prosperity to all who share it, a figgy pudding is typically made five weeks before Christmas, on or after the Sunday before Advent.

Also called plum pudding and Christmas pudding, this dessert is, in the manner of British puddings, a steamed cake. Essentially, it’s a very wet, alcohol-soaked, boiled fruit cake. British recipes use fruits such as plums, figs and dates; Irish recipes vary the recipe with raisins, currants, sultanas and citrus peel. Here’s the difference between British pudding and American pudding.

Even if you don’t have five weeks, you can make one this weekend and still have figgy pudding on Christmas.

The Christmas pudding is served on Christmas day, traditionally decorated with a spray of holly (which is not edible). In some homes, it is doused in flaming brandy and brought to the table in a darkened room. Here’s how to flambé a dessert.

The steamed pudding trend hasn’t caught on in the U.S. (or at least, it hasn’t returned since it fell out of fashion at the beginning of the 19th century), but we think it’s ripe for a comeback.

   

Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding

TOP PHOTO: Figgy pudding with hard sauce. Photo by Gerry Lerner | SXC. BOTTOM PHOTO: Figgy pudding with toffee sauce, from Mackenzie Ltd.

 
NEXT DECISION: SAUCE FOR THE PUDDING

First, here’s a figgy pudding recipe. You can add figs, dried plums (prunes), raisins or other dried fruits and still be authentic.

A good pudding needs a good sauce, of course. Christmas pudding can be served with:

  • Brandy- or rum-flavored white sauce (here’s a a recipe from England)
  • Custard sauce (recipe)
  • Hard sauce (recipe)
  • Toffee sauce/sticky pudding sauce (recipe)
  • Lemon sauce (recipe)
  • Whipped cream (plain and holiday flavored recipes)
  •  
    Or you can be very untraditional and serve your pudding with some vanilla ice cream. For delightful overkill, try rum raisin ice cream.

     

    wassail-bowl-feastsfromthepantry-230

    A wassail bowl. Wassail is neither the bowl nor the punch, but a toast to good health. Photo courtesy Feasts From The Pantry.

     

    SHOULD YOU HAVE WASSAIL WITH YOUR FIGGY PUDDING?

    You may have heard of the wassail bowl. Wassail is neither the bowl nor the spirited drink inside it. Rather, it is a toast to good health. What’s in the bowl can be anything from eggnog to punch.

    The toast is not limited to England. From the Spanish salude to slainte in Irish Gaelic, many languages wish good health when glasses clink.

    Wassail (WOZ-ul) is an Old English toast, adopted from the Old Norse “ves heill,” meaning “be healthy.” It has been served to carolers for centuries.

    Wassail has its own song, too: Here we come a wassailing among the leaves so green.

    But should you serve it with figgy pudding?

     
    Nay. Drink from the wassail bowl before or after dinner; but with the pudding, have a nice cup of tea. Coffee, if you prefer.

      




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