Fig Preserves (Jam) Recipe
Today, we are savoring all of the sweet fruits of summer, including beautiful fresh Black Mission and Brown Turkey figs, and considering how to preserve some to enjoy later over gelato, served with sharp, piquant cheeses on a cheeseboard, or perhaps just spread on buttered toast.
This is the fruit that was associated with sin for Christians. Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves after eating the forbidden fruit, and Judas is said to have hanged himself from a fig tree. Figs are a sinfully sweet fruit that is a favorite flavor in many cuisines, since the trees were discovered growing in the Orient, and were transported to sunny Mediterranean areas. The Spanish love to coat figs in chocolate, and they bake a Fig de Higos, or fig bread, that is akin to a moist, dense fruitcake that is baked in a bain-marie (water bath). In Italy, figs are eaten out of hand on picnics or for snacks, but are also made into Panetti di Fichi Secchi. This is a confection made from pressing layers of figs alternating with roasted almonds, pistachios, chocolate flakes, chopped candy citron, vanilla and mint, which is then formed into a loaf or a salami-shaped log. After it dries for several days, the texture is soft and crumbly. In France, in Provence, figs are loved eaten fresh, or in seasonal desserts and jams. You might find roasted, caramelized figs in a restaurant in southern France along the Mediterranean Sea.
There are several different types of figs, and the colors and degree of sweetness vary. Black Mission figs are purplish black in color, are very sweet, and are great served with tangy yogurt or goat cheese. Brown Turkey figs have brownish purple and green skin and deep pink flesh when ripe, are less sweet than the Black Mission figs, but are very good in salads. Kadota figs are eye-catching light green, and are less sweet than other varieties. Adriatic figs are pale gren and pale yellow and sometimes have a striped appearance that has given them the nickname, “candy-striped figs.” They are extra sweet, and have an attractive bright pink to deep red interior when ripe.
When you select figs–and they are usually in the markets June through October–they should be plump, soft but not bruised, and it might appear that there is honey oozing from the area around the stem. They are highly perishable, so you really have to use them within a few days of purchase. So, when you have fresh figs on hand that must be utilized, you can make a simple fig preserve that can be utilized in many ways. Here is the simple recipe and technique. This is a fresh fig preserve without the sterilization of jars, so it must be utilized within 2 weeks and stored in the refrigerator. This served my purpose, as I had just enough for a small batch, having used most of the figs on a cheese board for guests. You can certainly use the basic recipe, but the traditional technique of serilizing the jars and placing them in a hot water bath if you wish to make a large batch that will keep longer.
Fresh Fig Preserves with Sherry
Makes 1 and 1/2 8 ounce jars of preserve
1 pound of figs, washed gently and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I had Brown Turkey figs on hand, but you could use another variety)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Juice from 1/2 large lemon
1/4 cup of sherry
1/4 cup of water (I added just a bit more as the cooking progresses and some juices evaporated)
Place the cut figs into a medium, non-reactive saucepan (I used an enamel over cast iron deep skillet) Cover the figs with the sugar and stir. Allow the figs to sit coated with sugar for 15 minutes, and stir occasionally, until the sugar has been absorbed into the figs. Next, add the sherry, lemon juice and water, and stir, cooking over medium heat for about 20-25 minutes until the figs appear broken down and melting, and the syrup coats a spoon.
Place in jars and cool before screwing on the lids. Store in the refrigerator. The flavor is sweet, figgy, and you can taste the hint of sherry. This is a chunky preserve. If you prefer it smoother, then cool it down and use your immersion blender to puree the bits of fruit.
Here are a few ideas for utilizing fig preserves:
- Spread on grilled rustic, crusty bread that has been spread with a tangy fresh goat cheese.
- Spread on black Russian rye bread and top with prosciutto and Manchego cheese
- Spread on black Russian rye or a crusty Italian bread, and top with spicy Capicola and a sharp provolone
- Serve as a condiment, brought to room temperature, with grilled pork chops or pork tenderloin
- Spread on top of a round of Brie cheese with some sliced almonds for a cheeseboard centerpiece.
- Make a larger batch and make Cucciadati, the Italian fig cookie with shortbread dough, much like a Fig Newton!
- Make a quick Tartelette, using purchased puff pastry dough, a layer of almond filling, and topped with fig preserves.
- Warm preserves with a bit of Sherry and spoon over vanilla ice cream or gelato
Figs just seem to be a natural paired with cheeses–tangy and creamy, or sharp, salty, piquante. The flavor of this preserve paired with prosciutto is amazing.
I am certain that you can create your own special dishes, sweet or savory, using this simple fig preserve! I intend to take advantage of fig season, so you may find other posts involving figs!