So… fig pudding. Like the pease pudding, it’s cooked in a water bath, either by tying it up in linen or muslin and directly boiling, or by cooking in a bowl put in the water (essentially, a double-boiler effect). In this case, with the sweet pudding, it’s better cooked in a bowl, so you don’t lose the flavour of the figs. Now as to the length of time it’s been a pudding, rather than, say, a fruitcake-like thing, it’s harder to say, but it’s pretty old, probably almost as old as the first dried figs imported to Britain. The fifteenth-century recipe* I have uses raisins and dates in addition to the figs, having all the fruits mixed with eggs, fat, flour, and breadcrumbs, and worked into a dough that is then boiled in water (and then suggests you can warm slices of the pudding on the griddle). I prefer it with just the figs, as it’s an excellent connection with something the Jamestown Settlement & Museum visitors know – “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding” from the carol We Wish You a Merry Christmas – and it is a proper period dish made with just the figs. My experience with the pudding was that it tastes very much like a Fig Newton. Without further ado:
Fig (figgy) pudding
2 cups dried figs, chopped small
1 cup lard or suet, if you can get it (it’s better with suet)
1 cup flour
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (crumble up some bread; it needs to be fresh, not dried)
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp milk
Lard, for greasing the pudding bowl
medium mixing bowl
medium ceramic pudding bowl
In a medium bowl, combine figs, lard, and breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and milk together, and add to the fruit mixture, adding more milk if needed to make a stiff dough. Grease the pudding bowl heavily (be generous; you want the cooked pudding to come out of the bowl), and pack the dough in firmly, flattening the top evenly. Fill the saucepan half-way with water. Cover the pudding bowl tightly with foil and place in the 6-qt saucepan, making sure the water doesn’t come up more than 2/3 of the way up the bowl. Bring the water to a boil, them simmer for 3 hours, checking the water every half hour, adding more water if needed. Do not allow the pan to boil dry.
Once the pudding is cooked, immediately turn it out onto a plate. Serve warm or cold.
* pp. 112-113, Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, Thomas Austin (ed.), printed for the Early English Text Society, Oxford University Press, 1888(facsimile, Boydell & Brewer, Ltd., New York, 2000).