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What Is Fig Pudding?

By Rachael Cullins
Updated Feb 19, 2024
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Fig pudding is a dessert dish that originated in England around the mid-1600s. As its name suggests, the primary ingredient in fig pudding is figs. The pudding can be prepared in a variety of ways, including boiling, baking, and steaming. The dessert is immortalized in the Christmas carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” with the line “now bring us some figgy pudding.” Judging by these lyrics, historians believe fig pudding was likely most popular around the holidays in old England, and it remains a Christmas-centric dish today.

Due to the well-known lyrics, many recipes refer to fig pudding as figgy pudding. The process for making the pudding from scratch can be quite complicated and requires several hours in the kitchen, although packaged, dried figs can be used to simplify the cooking process. Most modern fig puddings are baked, but the dish can also be prepared by steaming, boiling, or frying. The consistency of the dish is less like a traditional smooth pudding and more like a fruit-based sponge cake.

To make fig pudding, one typically boils dried figs then chops them into small, bite-sized pieces before adding them to cake mix, either boxed or made from scratch. Numerous additions can be made to the pudding, depending on the recipe or one’s own tastes. These additions can include brandy-soaked raisins, orange peel, almonds, cherries, cranberries, or marmalade. Nutmeg is used in almost every fig pudding recipe, and cinnamon, ginger and cloves are also commonly used.

After the ingredients for fig pudding are blended together, the dessert is then baked in the oven for about two hours. Once the pudding has cooled and set, it can be sliced and served with warm syrup made from the leftover boiled fig water, whipped cream, or both. The final product is much like fruitcake and is also known as Christmas pudding or plum pudding.

Fig pudding is still a well-known holiday dish in England, though it is perhaps not as popular as it was a few centuries ago and is not considered a necessity at a British holiday meal. The pudding is appealing to some because it preserves well and can be made a couple weeks before Christmas and stored in the refrigerator until it is ready to eat. Some cooks pour brandy or rum over the pudding block just before serving and light the dish on fire, providing entertainment for guests along with dessert.

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