~The Story Behind My Figgy Pudding Recipe~
My Christmas Figgy Pudding Adventure
It all started one evening, as I was watching a Christmas movie on TV. A couple of characters encountered a group of carolers singing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” As the carolers finished, one of the characters proudly proclaimed to the other, “Did you know figgy pudding does not contain figs nor is it pudding. It’s more like cake.”
As an American, I didn’t know much about some of the gloriously English traditions like figgy pudding. I wondered if this information was true, or not.
Search for the Real Story
Since I’m curious by nature, I started investigating. It turns out the movie character was only partially right. Figgy pudding is frequently known as Christmas pudding, especially when it doesn’t contain figs. But it does have plenty of dried fruit in it—and can have (and frequently does have) figs in it. But it is more like a cake, than a pudding. The descriptions I read reminded me a little of bread pudding.
Wikipedia (which cites several sources, including the Oxford dictionary) has this to say about figgy pudding.
Figgy pudding dates back to 16th century England. Its possible ancestors include savory puddings, such as crustades, fygeye or figge (a potage of mashed figs thickened with bread), creme boiled (a kind of stirred custard), and sippets (croutons). In any case, its methods and ingredients appear in diverse older recipes, for instance in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management.
Today, the term figgy pudding is popularised mainly by the Christmas carol “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” which includes the line, “Now bring us some figgy pudding”. A variety of nineteenth-century sources state, in the West Country of England (from which the carol comes), “figgy pudding” referred to a raisin or plum pudding, not necessarily one containing figs.
How interesting? Since it can be steamed, an idea came to me. I wonder if I could make figgy pudding in my new Instant Pot?
I LOVE my new Instant Pot!
Finding the Right Recipe with the Right Method
More research ensued. I found several recipes—specifically for pressure cooked figgy pudding. A few of them were specific to the Instant Pot. Most of the recipes I saw called for flour and some called for bread. Humm… I wonder if I could make it gluten-free? More research followed. I narrowed it down to four recipes. My bravery emerged and I planned to try making this dish. But I declared, “Mine WILL have figs in it!”
I printed the recipes, compared their ingredients, and settled on the one sounding most flavorful and interesting. It was a recipe created by an “English lass” who calls herself, “Just Jo.” (Thank You, Jo!) She posts tons of recipes at her blog www.EveryNookAndCranny.net. She even has an entire section for Instant Pot recipes of all kinds. But I digress.
She apparently took an old, traditional Christmas pudding recipe, played with it and converted it into an Instant Pot recipe. She wrote a blog post about it—you can find the link in my Resources section, at the end. Jo also gave us instructions on how to make it gluten-free. She has been a great discovery for me.
And…in case you’re one of the people who can’t handle the dried fruit and/or liqueur in a Christmas dessert, Jo has an Instant Pot Alternative Christmas Pudding (also in my Resources) without the dried fruit (or liqueur). It also sounds wonderful and I intend to try it soon.
Conversions and Other Discoveries
The only trouble I initially found in this amazing discovery—the English do things a bit differently. I needed to convert it from grams and milliliters into cups and tablespoons. Of course, after I went searching for the conversions, I discovered Jo has a page for this very thing. DOH! Sometimes, ya just have to laugh. Oh well.
My printed copy of her recipe quickly resembled something from my college research days—scribbled notes everywhere. I was grateful to have found her recipe post—and another one she wrote later about the “Christmas Pudding Troubleshooting Guide.” I discovered many things.
I learned, ideally, you need to soak the dried fruit ahead of time. I soaked mine for about a week. I chose dried figs, cranberries, pineapple, cherries, and blueberries. I also soaked the candied ginger. You can soak it in liqueur, or in strong tea. Oh, my! The variety of tea flavors I have—if I were to choose the tea version. But I also have a variety of liqueurs too. Such possibilities! In her Troubleshooting post, Jo lists several potentials.
I also learned the English have some interesting terms for many things—I had to Google a few words. Things like the “hob,” which I took to maybe mean a stovetop of some sort? In searching Wikipedia, I found this:
“In a kitchen, the hob is a projection, shelf, grate or bench for holding food or utensils at the back or side of a hearth (fireplace) to keep them warm, or an internal chimney-corner. In modern British English usage, the word refers to a cooktop or hotplate, as distinguished from an oven.) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hob_(hearth)
Another term I had to look up was “treacle.” I discovered it’s merely another word for molasses. Some things she described in her article—like “suet” which is a hard, fatty tissue from beef or mutton used in British and Irish cooking. In America, we’ve used lard or, more recently, we tend to use butter instead. Or if you have to go dairy-free you might use ghee. I suppose vegetarians could use coconut oil.
I discovered if using suet, there’s a difference in the cooking time from using a butter-based recipe (something she describes–suet taking longer to break down than butter). But I wasn’t planning to use suet, so no worries there. Using a thermometer to test the center can be helpful. You’ll want the finished pudding to have a center temperature of 167 degrees Fahrenheit. I simply used the “knife comes out clean, from the center” test.
A Christmas Treat Surprise
I wanted this to turn out just right. I wanted to surprise my Mom with this old-time, traditional Christmas treat. I had never tried it, and I knew no one else in my family had either.
I spent time researching, and deciding which dried fruits I’d use, and which liqueur(s) I’d use. I read through the instructions a few times, to make sure I understood them, and to make sure I had all the ingredients I intended. I decided to do a trial run before Christmas, to assure I got it right.
Oops! High-Altitude Adjustments
It’s a good thing I practiced. Although the practice pudding came out Ok (Hubby said it was just fine and he scarfed it up), the center was a tiny bit more…moist than I thought it should be. Oh, wait! I hadn’t considered high-altitude adjustments. Oops! As it turns out, pressure cooking can require a little bit of high-altitude adjusting, and I live at about 5,300 feet above sea level.
The high-altitude suggestion is: “Increase cooking time by 5% for every 1,000 feet above 2,000 feet above sea level.” Some things like delicate vegetables don’t need the extra time.
You can find a chart here: https://www.pressurecookrecipes.com/pressure-cooker-high-altitude-cooking-time/
For example, I’m at about 5,300 feet—just above 5,000 feet. So for me, I need to add 15% to my pressure cooking times. This means I take the listed cooking time on a “sea level” recipe and multiply it by 1.15 and walaa, I’ll have my adjusted cooking time. Now I know.
I also discovered I probably needed to add a bit more “flour,” or gluten-free flour.
Because of all I’ve learned from working with Jo’s recipe, adjustments and conversions I’ve made, I decided to write the recipe and instructions the way I ended up doing them.
Mine turned out great. I took it to surprise my Mom and stepdad for Christmas Eve. While I was dishing it up, I told them to sing, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Then they stopped at the end of the first verse. Really guys? After they finished the first verse, I told them, “Second verse!” I was ready to serve… to bring them some figgy pudding. Fortunately, my husband knows the words to all the verses and he led the second verse as I served them their figgy pudding. I think they got a kick out of it.
Oh yea… apparently, the British also “age” their traditional Christmas puddings in a cool, dark place for weeks or months. Personally, I’m a bit leery about this traditional aging practice, since I have a couple of sensitivities. I won’t be aging my puddings—at least not for now.
Jo’s original “Instant Pot Christmas Pudding” recipe I started with:
Then came her handy “Christmas Pudding Troubleshooting Guide”
What is “The Hob?”
Then Jo’s IP Alternative Christmas Pudding (if you don’t like dried fruit)
And the High-Altitude info on Pressure Cooking:
And my version of the Instant Pot Figgy Pudding Recipe Here
( http://www.takingbackwellness.com/i-bring-you-some-figgy-pudding/ ).