What Is Figgy Pudding Anyway?

It’s that time of year again, when the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is being heard on television, radios, and being sung by Christmas choirs. If you’re familiar with the lyrics, you know that three out of four verses are dedicated to figgy pudding. You might be asking, “What is figgy pudding anyway?” It might surprise you to learn that it’s not pudding, nor does it contain figs. In the UK, “pudding” is used as a catch-all to describe any sweet dish served after a meal. Figgy pudding isn’t creamy or custardy, but it is a sugary cake, and across the pond that qualifies as pudding. In its most basic form, figgy pudding is a steamed, often dome-shaped cake made with alcohol and dried fruit. The first version of figgy pudding surfaced in Britain in the 14th century. Back then, it was a stew-like, savory dish containing beef and mutton, as well as fruit and wine. In the 15th century, this mixture was stuffed into animal casings to make sausages that would last through the winter. By the end of the 16th century, figgy pudding had transitioned to a fully sweet dish commonly filled with currants, raisins, and soaked in rum or brandy. Figs occasionally appear in recipes, though they’re not considered a traditional ingredient.