One of the time-honored carols of the season is “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Have you ever really paid attention to the words past the first verse? I remember the song being sung in the classic movie “Little Women.” While the lyrics in the second verse didn’t make sense to me, it seemed to in the movie.
The origin of this Christmas carol comes from the English tradition where people gave Christmas treats to the roving carolers on Christmas Eve. A popular treat back in the day was “figgy pudding” which was very much like modern-day Christmas pudding. A variety of nineteenth-century sources state that, in the West Country of England, “figgy pudding” referred to a raisin or plum pudding, not necessarily one containing figs. Go figure.
Back to the song – it’s not until you get to the second set of lyrics in “We wish you a Merry Christmas” that you come upon the words, “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding, And bring it right here.” THEN, the song goes on to say, “We won’t go till we get some, So bring it right here.” Well, that puts a new spin on this seemingly innocent Christmas song. Now you have a front porch full of people who are not going to leave until you feed them figgy pudding, which we now know doesn’t contain figs at all.
And getting to the last set of lyrics, “We all like our figgy pudding, With all its good cheers.” Does all its good cheers mean it’s spiked with spirits? What I found out from a little research is that they preserved these puddings with alcohol like brandy, thus “spirits,” as the pudding would sit in the cupboard for months, sometimes a year. The alcohol prevented it from spoiling. Uh huh. So now these strangers in front of your house won’t leave until you feed them AND give them alcohol? Maybe this was okay back in the 19th century, but this doesn’t sound like a great situation in the year 2018.
In the meantime, I’m giving up on making figgy pudding since it doesn’t even contain figs. I’m going to make a good old-fashioned figgy jam and drinking the brandy myself! I can do that at 10:00 am as long as the brandy is in my coffee, right? And I’m not answering the door to any of those damn Christmas carolers you can be sure!
Seriously, this jam will make great gifts for everyone on your gift list. Save a few jars for yourself. I use my fig jam in many recipes. A dollop or two on top of a herbaceous pork tenderloin adds a nice flavor finish.
It’s not just for spreading on toast, although it is delicious and one of my favorites!
I especially like it on pizza – check out pizza/appetizer recipe. More ideas at the end of this post.
Our fig tree only yielded 6 figs this year (it’s a baby) so I have to thank Tonya and her dad Tony for the beautiful figs that went into this figgy jam. I peeled the figs, but you don’t have to.
- 4 pounds fresh figs, washed, stems removed) peeled or unpeeled
- 21/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- dash cinnamon
- 1 lemon (juice and finely grated zest)*
- 3 teaspoons pectin (optional) I used it because I like my jam a thicker consistency
- Mix together and cook on medium simmer for about 20 minutes. Jam should register about 220 degrees F and thicken. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
- Pour into sterilized canning jars.
- Water bath according to standard canning procedures. Be sure to check that lids seal properly. Sealed jars can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly or frozen.
- *Option: substitute 4 tablespoons bottled lemon juice for 1 lemon
And would someone from the nineteenth century please explain the lyrics of the song to me?