Guava Duff is a popular desert in the Bahamas. You often hear Bahamians today saying, that many aspire to, but not everyone can make duff. It requires a skilled and patient hand, as well as someone who knows how to measure generous servings of rum. However, its origin is far from Bahamian. The roots of ‘duff’ extend far back in history, across the Atlantic ocean, to Britain in the early 19th century. Duff is a flour pudding boiled or steamed in a cloth bag. The term ‘duff’ referred not only to the dough like consistency used to make the pudding, but also to its form. A successfully finished duff, is more or less a solid, substantial product.
The modern Bahamian guava version, is a boiled pudding (often wrapped in an obliging pillow case) made from the sweetened peeled and sectioned guava fruit. A sugary sweet rum sauce is made from the juice of the strained guava seeds. This method of pudding making, was undoubtedly brought over by the early British colonial settlers in the 18th century. Back then, duff was made in a specially designed sleeve called a pudding cloth or pudding bag. The pudding bag was made from a firmly seamed dense cloth. This helped the duff to cook without the dough getting soaked and soggy from the boiling water. The bags usually measured about seven- to nine-inches wide by fourteen- to eighteen-inches long. Pudding clothes or bags were made from the sturdiest materials like damask or better yet, and obliging old tablecloths.
Simple duff in the 18th century could be both savoury or sweet. Savoury duff were much big dumplings. They would be served with meats, salted pork or boiled beef. A savoury English version made use of plums. A British 18th century plum duff would include raisins or currents.
During World War I, British soldiers could be seen sitting in the battles trenches “some now largely forgotten dishes, such as beef tea, mutton broth, brawn, potato pie and duff pudding”.
In 1901, a short story by Henry Lawson, “The Ghost of Many Christmases” published in Children of the Bush, referred to the plum pudding as duff.