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Recipe for Yummy Quick and Easy Fig Jam
In our front yard here on lovely temperate Vancouver Island is a small, vigorous fig tree. This year the fig tree produced a record number of little spikes at the beginning of the season, most of which grew into soft, droopy green figs. My dear husband, who one might describe as a "fig pig", was ecstatic. We ate ripe figs as they matured, and then he went on a hike. I'm not as big a fan of the actual fig fruit so I looked for some way to preserve them until he came back. Fig jam seemed to be the ticket.
Figs are actually pretty fascinating little fruits (well, not even fruits really-- read more below in my "Five Figgy Facts"). They have a long rich history, are full of healthy features, and grow in poor soil in desert lands.
Jam is also very interesting. Back in the day when there were limited supplies of fresh produce in the winters, people had to rely upon their ability to preserve the nutrition and taste of their harvests. Canning, drying, salting and jelly and jam-making were serious skills and a heavy day's work. We are so fortunate these days to have the gadgets we have, and fresh fruit all year long, so that if I want to make marmalade in December, no problem! Fig jam, however, might be a little more difficult to make out of season since most of the exported figs arrive in the form of dried figs. But, if you have an opportunity to snag up some fresh ones, I hope you try out this article's quick and easy jam recipe!
Five Figgy Facts
- Fresh figs taste different from dried figs. I didn't see fresh figs for sale in my Canadian childhood and youth on the prairies. What I knew about the taste and texture of figs came from the cookies that claimed to be the defining fig confection for prairie folk: two small slabs of manufactured shortbread glued together with a dried fig filling. Just as Kleenex became the way of identifying all tissues for wiping your nose and drying your eyes, the "Fig Newton" seemingly described all these fig-filled cookies with their seedy centers. As children we could place an entire fig newton in our mouths without being called out for it-- they were that well-designed.
- Figs are mentioned in the Bible 49 times, in both the Old and New Testaments. As long as the fig tree bore fruit, it was valued for its juicy sweetness. Jesus once used a barren fig tree to illustrate the power of faith the the disciples had access to (Matthew 21). The fig tree was referred to in other parables by Jesus. It seems to have been a familiar tree, and a source of sustenance and shade.
- A Fig is Not a Fruit but a Scion or Infructescence. Huh? The inflorescence grows as a hollow fleshy structure, like a horn with the opening closed in. Masses of tiny flowers grow inside this inflorescence, so you never see a fig tree in bloom, in the traditional sense. A small opening in the structure allows the fig wasp, Blastophaga psenes, to enter and pollinate the flowers. The pollination results in all the teeny-tiny seeds that you see inside a ripe fig when you split it open. Each tiny seed is the sole offspring of the teeny fruit (a fibrous strand)-- there could be thousands of these fruits with their single seed inside of each inflorescence. A cultivar of the domestic fig, like my fig tree in the front yard, is self-pollinating, not requiring the services of the fig wasp, and not nearly as colorful or as sweetly tasty as my neighbour's figs, that were grown by a Mediterranean couple (he was Greek, she was Italian).
- Figs are part of the Mediterranean Diet. Although it would appear that figs originated in the warm, dry, sunny Middle East, they adapt well to similar climates throughout the world. Think grapes, figs, dates, and olives, and you have the makings of a Mediterranean diet, right? Eat fresh figs and stay slim-- a 100g serving results in .3 g of fat and 80 calories, compared to 100g of Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar with its 520 calories and 29.8 g of fat. A large study of women found that those eating fruits like figs daily had a 50% less rate of developing breast cancer. Figs, unlike chocolate bars, come with a good quantity of dietary fibre, vitamins (notably the B vitamins) and minerals. Did I mention that they are also very sweet?
- The phrase "I don't give a fig" predates the less polite "I don't give a f--k" and apparently means about the same thing, i.e., "I have no interest in that subject". How does the phrase actually relate to the fresh fig? The Internet Court is still out on that one.
Ingredients for Quick and Easy Fig Jam
- 2 pounds/ 1 Kg Fresh, Ripe Figs, Quartered. Get rid of any moldy ones.
- 1/4 Cup / 60 g Sugar or other Sweetener
- 1/2 Lime, Juiced, Fresh lemon is a good substitute
- Cinnamon, To Taste
Put Figs into the Pot and Cover with Sugar
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How To Know When Your Fig Jam Is Done
Continue to stir your jam, simmering over medium heat. You will begin to notice that it masses together. This is the fun part: with the tip of your wooden spoon (or silicone spatula), make a space in the bottom of the pan, kind of like when you are pushing away the egg when making an omelet... keep working at the space. You should notice that the jam stops running in to fill the gap. When the space remains empty, you know you're jammin' Baby! See the photo above.
Add the lime (or lemon) juice with the cinnamon, and blend it in with your spoon. Stir for about three minutes until the lime juice seems to have evaporated.
Remove from the heat and fill three 1/2-pint jars. Leave uncapped while they cool down.
When cooled, cap them and place them in the fridge. You may wish to store them in your freezer (for preserving over a month).
7 Ideas for Using Fresh Fig Jam
- In the Usual Way, on Fresh Bread- Can't beat this historical use of jam. Team up with Almond Butter (almonds are also in the Bible and the Mediterranean-- just following the theme here).
- Try the Mini Fig Jam Cheese Cakes (photo above)- Easy-peasy to satisfy that craving for cheesecake and a way to save on overindulgence regret... unless you become addicted to these minis (and you well might!) Spread some quality cream cheese on a digestive biscuit or a graham cracker (or a chocolate wafer) and top with fig jam.
- Have a Jam Swap Get-Together- Invite 3 or 4 jam-making friends over with 3 or 4 jars of their jam and swap for your fig jam. Very win-win-yum-yum.
- Make a few changes to your Fig Jam Recipe to make Fig Chutney. Adapt your usual favourite chutney recipe by adding in the figs. Don't use the handheld blender because chutney is chunky!
- The Amber Jewel in the Thumbprint Cookie!
- Melt it down and make a glaze for a roast chicken!
- And the obvious-- if you have any to spare go ahead and gift others with this tasty home-made luxury jam!