Posts Tagged ‘Figgy Hobbin’

Figgy Hobbin

December 28, 2017

I love exploring traditional foodways, especially if they have an ethnic flair. Not surprisingly, the protagonist of my Chloe Ellefson Mysteries does too. The latest book in the series, Mining For Justice, is all about the Cornish miners and their families who helped turn rough mining camps in what would become southwestern Wisconsin into communities.

One of the Cornish treats Chloe discovers is figgy hobbin—although historically, it wasn’t actually a treat. Her hostess, an elderly Cornish-American woman named Tamsin, explains that in old Cornwall needy people ate hoggans:

“Oh course, the truly poor people had to make do with hoggans,” Tamsin said. “Flatbread with a morsel or two of pork baked into it. My father said they were hard as rocks. Women made them of barley flour when wheat was too dear.”

Mine workers like these men and women might have made a meal of hoggans.  (“Dolcoate Copper Mine” engraved by J.Thomas after a picture by Thomas Allom, published in Devon & Cornwall Illustrated, 1832. Steel engraved print with recent hand color.)

Food traditions are not static. Hoggans evolved into figgy hobbin, a dish similar to mince pie, made with beef suet, lard, and raisins in a pastry, served with perhaps a little milk and sugar. (In parts of England “figgy” means raisins or currants, and some linguists believe “hobbin” is a diminutive of “oven.”)

The dish has evidently almost disappeared from Cornish tables, but an even sweeter version is alive and well in Mineral Point. Mining For Justice is largely set in that charming Wisconsin town. If you visit, stop by the Red Rooster Cafe for some figgy hobbin. Their dessert is topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream.

At the Red Rooster Cafe on High Street, Mineral Point, WI.

With advance planning you can also enjoy figgy hobbin at The Walker House.

Figgy hobbin is easy to make at home, too.  Here’s a basic recipe.

1 batch of your favorite pie crust
extra flour for rolling
1 T. grated orange peel or 1 T. orange marmalade (optional)
3  T. cinnamon
1/4  c. brown sugar or raw sugar
1/2 c. raisins or dried currants
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
3 T. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll pastry into a rectangle about 10 x 8 inches. Brush pastry with the melted butter. Mix orange peel, cinnamon, sugar, dried fruit, and chopped nuts and spread in an even layer over the crust. Leave some open space around the perimeter to facilitate rolling.

Roll gently into a log.

Place on an oiled cookie sheet with the seam at the bottom. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. (Note:  I brushed the top of my roll with egg white, something several of the recipes I consulted recommended. For my taste, that created a too-brown top, so I wouldn’t do that again.) Slice and serve.

If desired, top with warm caramel sauce and/or whipped cream.

Enjoy!