fresh figs

Figs Preserved in Honey Syrup

Last summer, I made fig jam for the first time, and it’s been a highlight of my picnic spreads and cheese trays ever since. This summer, I was lucky enough to score large batches of figs two weekends in a row. I love fresh figs, but their shelf life is painfully short. I restocked my jam supply, and then turned my attention to other preservation methods.

I liked the idea of keeping the fruits whole, and serving them with yogurt, hot cereal, cheese, or just alone. Fall project: find (or create) a cocktail recipe featuring the syrup! I used black mission figs, the variety I typically see in my area, but green figs would look beautiful for this recipe. Try wide-mouth pint jars for easy access to the fruits.

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Figs Preserved in Honey Syrup

From Put ’em Up, by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Makes about 9 pints

10 pounds figs, stemmed
6 cups water
2 cups honey
1 cup sugar
9 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (1 tablespoon per jar)

In a large saucepan, cover the figs with water by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes to soften the fruit. Drain.

Combine 6 cups water, honey, and sugar in another large saucepan, and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the figs and gently boil them in the syrup for 5 minutes.

Pour 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into each clean, hot pint jar. Pack the jars gently but firmly with figs. Ladle hot syrup over the figs to cover by 1/2 inch, leaving 1/ inch headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid. Screw lids on the jars temporarily. Gently swirl each jar to release trapped air bubbles. Remove the lids and add syrup, if necessary, to achieve the proper headspace.

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 45 minutes. turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

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Sticky Fig Jam

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This should be a picture of an embarrassingly large picnic spread. I’m not talking Americana cold fried chicken and potato salad and pie picnic food (although I do love me some pie).

I’m talking prosciutto, salami, several cheeses, crusty bread, crackers, marinated vegetables, maybe some aged balsamic vinegar and good olive oil, and of course, more wine than you know you should have but don’t really care.

Just when you think you’ve perfected that picnic spread, fig jam walks in and blows your mind.

Game. Over. It’s that good.

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Fig jam is like strawberry’s sexy, more sophisticated older sister. Jam is also seriously easy, and is a great project for a novice canner if you’re so inclined. If not, you can refrigerate unprocessed jam for a few weeks.

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Fig season is fleeting, but if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some this recipe should definitely be on your must-do list for the weekend. The beauty of jam is that you don’t need perfect fruit. If you’re canning, be sure to use bottled lemon juice, which has a more consistent acidity level (important for safe and effective canning).

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I’ll be sure to upload a picture just as soon as I have a worthy picnic spread. For now, you’re stuck with pictures of jars in my pantry. In the meantime, feel free to daydream your own picnic spread.

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Sticky Fig Jam

From Put ’em Up! cookbook, by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Makes about 4 cups

2 pounds figs, stemmed and quartered (I used black mission figs)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice

Bring the figs and water to a boil in a large nonreactive pot. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes to soften the fruit. Crush the figs with a potato masher. Add sugar, vinegar, and lemon juice and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until thick and jammy but not dry, about 20 minutes. Test for gel (for a how-to, go here). Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes, stirring to release air bubbles.

If not canning, ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

If canning, use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot 4-ounce or half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. If any jars did not seal, refrigerate immediately.

Fig, Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad

Up to this point, I’d eaten fresh figs exactly once in my life: when the “gourmet fruit of the month” a vendor sends to my office was black mission figs. I managed to snag a couple of those plum beauties, and I could immediately see why my fellow foodies were so enamored. That was nearly a year ago, and I hadn’t seen figs in a grocery store since.

Until Sunday, that is, when I walked into Trader Joe’s, with crate after crate of figs, both black and green. I picked up a container of black mission figs, along with a package of goat cheese. That night, I sliced up a few, topped them with a few crumbles of cheese and a dot of honey, and threw them under a broiler for a couple minutes. Divine and devoured.

For the next two days, they were the highlight of my lunch, in salad form. I packed the ingredients in separate containers and tossed them together on a paper plate from the kitchen at work. I didn’t have any walnuts or pecans on hand, but they would make a great addition, both for flavor and texture. Grilled chicken would make this a great entree salad.

Fig, Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad for One

4-6 fresh figs, sliced in half, stems removed

1/2 cup sliced strawberries

1 oz goat cheese, crumbled

4 cups baby spinach

1 T balsamic vinaigrette (or your favorite dressing) – adjust to your personal preference

Toss all ingredients. Serve immediately.