Growing tales: Jo Evans, Figgy’s

For Jo and Richie Evans, stir-up Sunday has turned into a six-week period of intense baking over the summer, when they produce 4,000 handmade luxury Christmas puddings

Growing tales: Jo Evans, Figgy’s

For Jo and Richie Evans, stir-up Sunday has turned into a six-week period of intense baking over the summer, when they produce 4,000 handmade luxury Christmas puddings, which are then left to mature nicely for the next few months. 'It's the kind of volume a supermarket manufacturer would make in
10 minutes, I expect!' laughs Jo.
Of course, a splash of booze is a vital ingredient, and to achieve the unique flavour of the Figgy's pudding Jo and Richie combine local Devon-based Hanlon's Port Stout with the delicate flavour of a rather special 10-year-old Somerset cider brandy. 'The cider brandy is quite subtle, so we find any more than three or four months maturing and the flavour starts to fade,' says Jo. 'We tinkered with the recipe for a while until we got it right, but the two most important things to make a great Christmas pudding are to use good quality ingredients and to take your time. Our pudding is made with really good ingredients and cooked at ambient pressure for 6–8 hours like a proper homemade pudding. Supermarkets tend to pressure-cook their puddings so they only take 45 minutes, which can give a very dense texture and uninteresting flavour; and they often compensate for poor quality fruit by adding lots of sugar.'
The couple first started thinking about setting up their own business in 2006, and it was after making a batch of puddings for friends and family as Christmas gifts that an idea for a baking-based business began to take shape. 'My husband and I were quite keen to get out of the rat race and do something different. We got such great feedback from our puddings that we thought there might be a business opportunity there, especially as the mass-produced products all seemed to taste pretty much the same.'
Jo made the first batch of puddings to sell in 2007, just after their first child was born and she was on maternity leave, renting a bakery on a small organic farm for three days and making just a handful of puddings in each session. But by the time they had their second child and Jo had gone back to work again, the stress of juggling the demands of a young family, Figgy's and their careers forced the couple to rethink their priorities. 'We made a conscious decision to give up our jobs and focus on the children and the business, which we did in 2012. Figgy's now keeps us ticking over and, although we'll never be millionaires, it gives us an ideal work/life balance and we've started home-schooling the children too, so we've all escaped the rat race now.'
Made with thoughtfully chosen ingredients, including English Bramley apples, locally grown carrots, glacé cherries coloured naturally with fruit juices, breadcrumbs made using loaves from the bakery next door and the juiciest, plumpest Californian raisins, the Figgy's pudding is a real celebration of slow food.
'Our aim has always been to produce just one pudding and do it really well,' says Jo. 'However, I have been asked a few times to do a vegan version – it's definitely on my to-do list for the future. There is potential to expand our range, but the challenge for us is the time it takes to make and wrap them. Wrapping the cloths on top of the puddings (we send them out in their ceramic bowls) takes almost as long as making them! We always include a gift card too, so you can send them as a present; it's a really nice thing to receive.'

Figgy's puddings are suitable for vegetarians and come in three sizes, ranging from £10–£20. Find out more or buy online at www.figgys.co.uk.

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