Canning and preserving has always both scared and fascinated me. On the one hand, it seems so practical, nourishing, and creative. It conjures up images of pantries full of summer’s bounty that can be enjoyed on cold, snowy nights.
On the other hand, it strikes me as highly technical and like there’s all sorts of specialized gear involved. I am sooooo not a technical person. I’m the type of person business concepts like Geek Squad are created for!
Luckily, jam and preserve-making needn’t be complicated. Rooting around online, I recently discovered that a quick fruit jam can be made on the stovetop, and stored in the fridge for a couple of months. Taste of Beirut featured a wonderful fig jam recently. Inspired, I chose figs as my fruit of choice for my first preserve making experiment. This beautiful fruit brings back wonderful memories of a fig tree we had at one point growing up. More on that in a moment.
I added in some vanilla extract and warm fall spices to give the figs a autumnal fragrance and taste, and am happy to report that the results were quite delicious!
The way the figs just soaked up the spices so well got me thinking about how versatile they are in general. For example, figs get shout-outs from numerous world religions :
- Figs are the fruit that’s mentioned most in the Bible – They are prolific in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament Jesus uses figs in his parables.
- Zamakkhschari, an Arabian interpreter of the Koran, reported that Mohammed said, “If I could wish a fruit brought to paradise it would certainly be the fig.”
- While sitting under a fig tree, Siddhartha Gautama had the revelation that formed the foundations of Buddhism, and for Buddhists, the fig tree is revered as the tree of wisdom.
- In the Hindu tradition, Siva, the Supreme Being, tempts Brahma with a blossom of the sacred fig-tree, dropped from heaven.
- The Roman Bacchic cult used figs in their fertility rituals. Most ancient cultures actually believed they were an aphrodisiac.
- The above factoids are all found at: http://www.nutrafig.com/cheetahbar/story.html
Back to that long-ago fig tree in the yard. My mom used to preserve figs off of that tree in the traditional manner every spring and summer. Those preserves were delicious, and one day I plan to get Mom to teach me how how to make them. Then I can store them in jars for cold winter’s nights and give jars of jam away as gifts. A taste of summer will only be a jar away. For now, I’ll settle for quick preserves. Which, judging by this recipe, isn’t actually settling at all.
Mission Fig Jam with Warm Fall Spices
I used fresh Mission figs because they were what was available. Use the fresh fig type you have ready access to.
- 2 pounds fresh figs
- 1 1/2 cups sugar (I mixed white sugar and brown sugar, approximately equal parts of each)
- 1 or 2 Tablespoons pumpkin or apple pie spice powder
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Enough water to cover the fresh figs (start with a cup and work up from there if needed)
1. Wash figs. Mix sugar, water, vanilla extract, and spices together. Submerge the figs into this mixture, adding more water if more is needed to just barely cover the top of the figs. Let the figs sit overnight, up to 24 hours. (It might be okay to let them sit longer than 24 hours, but I’d be careful, because the sugar will start to soften the fruit and break it down).
2. When you’re ready to make the jam, place the contents of the bowl, including any unmelted sugar, into a non-reactive Dutch oven (like a Le Creuset). Add in the lemon juice and simmer on low until a froth forms on top.
3.Gently stir and allow to simmer 45 minutes to one hour over a very low flame.
4. Test a fig for doneness. Enjoy some right away, because they’re seriously good warm, but then let the rest cool and store in an airtight jar in the fridge.