I have never been to England at Christmastime but the Dickensian Christmas images I see (and have always imagined since reading A Christmas Carol) seems to show that Brits really do things up in December.
They are lucky not to have to roll out of Thanksgiving into the monthlong Christmas madness which has almost nothing to do with Christianity.
One of the holiday songs I keep hearing is “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”
Good tidings to you, wherever you are
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year
Now bring us some figgy pudding
Figgy pudding? It is an odd reference for Americans. I actually had it one year when a college friend who was a visiting student from England made it before our winter break. I didn’t question the contents of his creation but I did learn then that there were no figs in it and it doesn’t fit my American definition of “pudding.”
Figgy pudding is also called plum pudding or Christmas pudding and it looks like a softball or bigger ball depending on how many it serves.
It seems to be one of those holiday traditions that continues though it may not be a loved dish or a healthy one. I recall it feeling like a ball in my stomach for a day or so. I have never had it again.
Though it has no figs, it also doesn’t seem to have plums. That seems quite odd so I did some searching and found that some people do use figs or plums sometimes but that a “plum” was a pre-Victorian generic term for any type of dried fruit. Most of the time it meant raisins. It’s no wonder that the Brits lost the Revolutionary War.
It seems that today it is more of a steamed cake full of raisins, currants, and brandy.
If you want to get into the traditional part of figgy pudding you will find that the classic version was supposed to have 13 ingredients that represented Christ and the 12 apostles and it was served with a sprig of holly on top, standing in for the crown of thorns. All that seems more Easter than Christmas.
The dramatic side of this dessert is setting it on fire.
You can’t knock out this dessert tonight. You were supposed to have begun it on the last Sunday before Advent. That is five weeks before Christmas. That lets the alcohol age the ingredients.
One Christmas/Plum/Figgy Pudding Recipe I found online says it takes 30 minutes prep, 8 hours cooking time and is stored in a cool, dry place for 4-5 weeks.
It uses brown sugar, raisins, currants, candied orange peel, eggs and spices. Plus breadcrumbs and suet (raw beef or mutton fat!) and the all-important brandy.
On Christmas Day, you steam the pudding again for 1-2 hours immediately before putting it on the table, dousing it with more brandy and setting it aflame.
I think I’ll just have some eggnog with bourbon and a hot toddy before bedtime tonight.