You are probably hearing Christmas music in malls, radio stations, websites and perhaps even in your own home. One old Christmas song that tends to stick in my head about now is “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. We used to sing it with students attending Christmas education programs at my former workplace. So why I am I talking about music instead of food? Well that particular piece includes the following lines:
Oh bring us some figgy pudding. Oh bring us some figgy pudding. Oh bring us some figgy pudding and bring it right here.
We won’t go until we get some, we won’t go until we get some, we won’t go until we get some, so bring it out here.
And so today I am making Fig Pudding using a 1906 Berlin Cook Book recipe contributed by Mrs. J. A. Ross. I don’t know if this is like the figgy pudding of the song. This is a steamed pudding and it is the closest I can get with this cookbook.
I prepared the wet ingredients first by mixing the eggs and milk together in one bowl. In another bowl I put the dry ingredients – salt, suet, bread crumbs, and baking power. It wasn’t until I was writing this that I realized I forgot to add the sugar! This is not going to be a sweet pudding. I mixed everything together (except the forgotten sugar).
Next I weighed the figs and chopped them. I didn’t have quite enough dried figs so this too has altered the recipe. I used two types of dried figs and discovered that the better brand is much easier to chop. The figs were soft, almost like fresh figs. It was easy to find the stem and remove it while the others were tough and I suspect will still be hard in the pudding. I assumed that the figs used in this pudding would be dried since I imagine it was difficult to find fresh figs in Berlin Ontario in 1906. I don’t even remember them when I was a child. It is only in the past ten or fifteen years that I’ve seen fresh figs in my local grocery and at the market.
I put about half a cup of flour in a bowl along with the chopped figs. Once the fig pieces were covered in flour I stirred it all into the pudding batter. My pudding mold was greased and ready. I spooned the lumpy batter into the mold and set it in the steamer. I left it to steam/boil for three hours topping up the water twice with boiling water. I removed the pudding from the steamer after three hours and unmolded it onto a plate. It looked okay so I was eager to taste it since I don’t mind figs. They aren’t my favourite dried fruit but they are okay.
Margaret E. Robinson married John A. Ross, a fire insurance inspector 13 years older than she and they had two children Vivian and Kenneth born just a year apart in 1898 and 1899. Sometime between contributing this recipe and the 1911 census the Ross family moved to Toronto. They show up in the Toronto West district. John is a fire adjuster for a company that looks to be called Ross & Wright. The family lives at number 303 but the street is hard to read. Another street on the same census page appears to be Roncesvale but it is also hard to read. I’m providing a link here so that you can try reading it too especially if you are familiar with Toronto street names. The Ross family is the last entry on the page. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/1911/pdf/e002030611.pdf
The pudding was easy to slice, and knowing I’d forgotten the sugar I thought I was prepared for the taste. I expected the flavour of figs to dominate. I tasted fig when I bit into one but the rest of the pudding was awful and I don’t think it is just the lack of sugar. Like all the other puddings based on bread crumbs, this has an odd texture. It has no spices so it is bland but it goes beyond bland to just plain awful! It was so bad I could actually taste the eggs! I can’t imagine making this version of Fig Pudding ever again even with 1/2 a cup of sugar and a handful more figs. I didn’t waste my time or good brandy making the sauce. I doubt it could redeem this pudding. Blech!!
Mrs. J. A. Ross
4 eggs, a pinch of salt, 1 1/2 cups of milk, 1 1/2 cups chopped suet, 2 1/2 cups of bread crumbs, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 pound of figs chopped fine, flour enough to keep fruit from sinking to bottom, steam 3 hours. Do not disturb or stop kettle from boiling. Sauce. 1/4 cup of butter browned, add 2 small cups of sugar, a little cornstarch, a pint of boiling water. Brandy to taste.