Fig Jam Revisited

Local figs make their debut in farmers’ markets at the beginning of September every year. If you don’t pounce on them in the first hour of the market, they’re gone. And every year, when I come home with a basket or two, I turn them into jam, revisiting the experiments of the prior years.  In the last few seasons, I migrated from low, slow simmering of figs and sugar alone to a microwave version that I like a lot.  I use my microwave mostly for defrosting frozen food or for heating water, so it was refreshing to use it as a real cooking tool. Besides the simple cleanup, the advantage with microwaving fig jam is how well it gels without seeming overcooked.

I was happy with the jam of green figs and oranges that I made two years ago, and with the fig jam with rosemary and lemon that I devised last year. However, this year, I tweaked the rosemary and lemon version to decrease the proportion of sugar to fruit, and to add a little lemon juice at the end, which freshens the taste with a bright note. And, in addition to cooking the rosemary with the figs, I added a little sprig at the end, submerging it completely in the jam (important since you want to avoid air bubbles and potential spoilage). This will once again be a delicious accompaniment to an appetizer of soft cheeses around the holidays.

And then, for the grand finale (until I brandy figs next week if I score at the market), I made fig and balsamic jam with black pepper. The recipe is adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home and returns me to the low-slow simmering method.  I’ve made a nearly identical jam with strawberries, but the figs win. This is a thick, dark, rich and aromatic concoction. Even though I doubled the amount of peppercorns, I might crush them next year to give the jam a kick. Or I could imagine a little smoky pepper, like the dynamite strawberry jam with chipotle pepper that I made in June. Figs are pretty versatile that way.

Fig and Balsamic Jam, adapted from Thomas Keller, Ad Hoc at Home

1 dry pint fresh figs, rinsed and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1 lb or 2 c)

¾ c sugar

¼ c balsamic vinegar

1 tsp black peppercorns, tied in a muslin sack

Pinch of salt

1 tbsp lemon juice

Place the figs, sugar, vinegar, peppercorns and salt in a saucepan and stir to combine. Let the mixture macerate for about 30 minutes.

Prepare jars for water bath canning. Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the gel.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Adjust the heat to allow the jam just to simmer until it tests for gel, about 25 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the stove, remove the sack of peppercorns and add the lemon juice. Spoon the jam into prepared jars and check for air bubbles.

Seal the jars and process them in a water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water comes to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.

Makes 2 eight-ounce jars or 4 four-ounce jars, which I prefer.

 

Fig Jam with Rosemary and Lemon

1½ dry pint fresh figs, rinsed and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1¼ lb or 2½-3 c)

1 c sugar

1 tsp grated lemon rind

1 tsp snipped rosemary leaves

Pinch of salt

1 tbsp lemon juice

A few fresh rosemary leaves for each jar

Place the figs, sugar, lemon rind, snipped rosemary and salt in a heatproof bowl that fits in the microwave oven and stir to combine. Let the mixture macerate for about 30 minutes.

Prepare jars for water bath canning. Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the gel.

Microwave the mixture at high speed for 6-8 minutes or until boiling. Remove and stir. Put the bowl back in the microwave and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring and checking the gel. Continue to cook for another few minutes until the gel has set.

Remove from the oven and add the lemon juice. Spoon the jam into prepared jars and add a couple of rosemary leaves to each jar, submerging them completely in the hot jam. Check for air bubbles.

Seal the jars and process them in a water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water comes to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.

Makes 3 eight-ounce jars or 6 four-ounce jars, which I prefer.

Categories: Figs, PreservingTags:

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