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In a Fig Jam - a Preserves Canning Recipe
Our fig tree is one of 67 trees on our lot. Yes, we counted: we walked around the weedy half acre that has adopted us, and we counted them. Ad hoc criteria for “what counts as a tree” guided us in weeding out the shrubs, sprouts and the sticks, and we were left with Our Trees. Eight of them produce edible objects, which is lovely. One specimen by the fence could produce fruit, perhaps, but for now, it’s boycotting our “extremely local food movement.” Mulberry, are you listening? You could be one of a beloved nine if you tried! Each year since we moved here, I have adopted one more of the food-bearing trees and focused on meeting its particular needs. Last year it was the fig tree.
We started watering the fig tree. Not that we increased its water. We started watering it, in amounts appropriate for its heritage. It seemed to like that. We trimmed the adjacent trees that blocked its sun, and tried giving it some food. Two years ago: gnarly sticks, pretty leaves, and a grand total of six figs. This year, we have bounty. We have hundreds of figs. They are scrumptious, and until recently, they have been cooperative with their ripening habits. That is, since the beginning of fig season, we have been finding five to ten ripe figs per day, which is just about the right amount for our family. Figs must be tree ripened, and they have a preciously short shelf life, so you only want as many as you really need. Last week, the figs started ripening at a much more rapid rate, and I found myself in a bit of a pickle regarding their beneficial use. Rather, I found myself in a bit of a fig jam.
Enter the Home Canning Project. I am not a home canning expert. I’m just learning. I pulled out my mom’s old equipment a few times this summer to address the <crazy> production levels that my tomatoes attained, and no one has died as a result yet, so I’m going to keep trying. I decided to make fig jam.
The markets at which I shop when I’m stocking up do not carry the kind of jam I like. Jam, I think, should be thick, not too sweet, and should be immensely flavorful. I have found that kind of jam at the store where I indulge in “retail therapy” while grocery shopping. You know the one. So, that’s not a practical, economical jam source. Perhaps, I thought, I could make the kind of jam that I like. I tried it, and it turned out very well. Here it is.
Fig Jam Recipe
Note: This is a "bare bones" recipe. Consult a canning guide such as the Ball Blue Book of Preserving for food safety guidelines and detailed instructions on home canning methods.
6-7 cups figs, halved
¼ cup bottled lemon juice
1 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 package no-sugar-needed Pectin
½–¾ cup sugar
½ cup honey
¼ teaspoon butter (optional)
Optional step # zero: run the figs through a food grinder. I like the resulting texture better when the figs are ground up.
- Mix figs, lemon juice, and apple juice in an 8-quart pan.
- Heat, gradually stirring in pectin.
- Add butter, if desired. (Some jam recipes include this to reduce foaming, but others warn that the butter can decrease shelf life.) You decide.
- Stir constantly and bring the fig mixture to a full rolling boil that you can not stir down.
- Add the sugar and honey.
- Return to a full rolling boil and boil hard for 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and skim foam if needed.
- Ladle into half-pint jars, leaving ¼” head space.
- Add lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
As noted above, be sure to follow safe food practices as described by a good canning book. Besides spreading on toast, how do I use my jam? See below.
Uses for Fig Jam
- Toast with butter and fig jam. Sublime.
- Sandwiches, made with ham (pick your favorite: serrano, prosciutto, Virginia?); cheese (romano shavings, or maybe provalone slices); arugula; and fig jam. I like it on Italian bread. If you don't have time to make the jam just to get the sandwich, you can also use slices of fresh fig.
- Cookies--you remember, the kind that have a thumbprint of jam in them?
- My foodie neighbor spreads it on little pastry bites and tops it with Stilton. Of course, anything that Stilton touches turns to gold, and I believe that fig jam has the same superpower, so the result here is yummylicious. Serve with a nice Syrah.
- Spoon. Dip into jam. Eat plain.
I like to stuff ripe figs with blue cheese, goat cheese, or Stilton, then wrap them in bacon and broil them until the bacon is cooked and the cheese is gooey. There must be some way to nod to this combination while using the jam. Ideas, anyone? Do you have other uses for fig jam?