Never in my life did I ever imagine I would have not one but three fig trees growing in my backyard. In Italy figs are served with prosciutto, baked into cakes and yes of course grace the jars in the form of jam or preserves. My dear friend Elizabeth Shaw of the handmade European luxury shoe line Rickard Shaw inspired me when I noticed she had made fig jam on Facebook, she also lives in Italy. There are over 800 fig varieties, the Dottato most commonly found in Italy is bright green on the outside with a red flesh on the inside is what we have on our property. At the beginning of our fig season which began about a month ago, I was feeling kind of peckish and stood at our first tree that bloomed under the enormous prehistoric looking leaves and ate 20 figs while my 15 month sat and watched me with curiosity. They were so divine. I had never made fig preserves but my friend assured me it would be easy. I chose a fantastically easy recipe from Williams-Sonoma Williams-Sonoma The Art of Preserving by Rick Field and Rebecca Courchesne. I decreased the amount of sugar by one cup, the recipe called for 4 cups and I used 3, I felt the figs were so sweet that less sugar would be fine. I also added two tablespoons of freshly grated ginger (although now I am thinking candied ginger might be fun next time), cinnamon, some lemon juice instead of orange juice as the recipe called for and lemon zest in lieu of orange zest. What I liked about the recipe was that it turned out more like a chutney then a jam as the cooking time of the fig mixture allowed the fig pieces to stay somewhat intact. The preserves are perfect on a piece of toast, or served with goat cheese crostini, on top of plain yogurt or along side a meat or poultry dish.
By the way, there was plenty of fig sugar syrup left at the bottom of the pot so I added half a cup of balsamic vinegar and one cup of wine and reduced the mixture on a medium flame for about 30 minutes stirring every now and again and was left with a delicious syrup that I poured over vanilla ice cream. Can you say YUMMMMM?!
Makes half a pint (8-fl oz/250-ml) jars
3 pounds/1.5 kg fresh figs such as Dotatto, Mission or Brown Turkey.
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
Have ready hot sterilized jars and their lids, if you are not sure how to do this go to ehow.com.
Trim the fig stems, leaving a little of the stem attached to each fig. In a large non-reactive sauce pan, combine the figs, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat and stirring constantly and then lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove any foam that may develop during cooking. Add the lemon zest and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon and a canning funnel divide the fig pieces evenly among the jars. Then ladle the syrup into the jars leaving about ¼ inch/ 6 mm of headspace. Seal the jars tightly.
Process the jars for 5-10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
The preserves can be stored in a cool dark place for up to a year. And once opened in the fridge for up to a month.