Posts Tagged figs

I give a fig

Good fresh figs are one of those to-die-for fruits, although they don’t travel well and are usually both underripe and scarily expensive up here in the Great White North.

So when my local store had ripe-looking one-pound packs of figs on offer for $7 for two on a day I had set aside to can tomatoes, I couldn’t resist the deal.

Surely the 45 minutes it takes to waterbath a batch of tomatoes is plenty of time to rustle up a batch of jam?

And how could I resist a peppered balsamic fig jam that the author says “started my love affair with canning”?

Turns out it was super easy, although I’m not quite sure if it’s a jam or a chutney. You chop the figs, simmer them with a little water for a bit, throw in the rest of the ingredients and boil until thick. The only thing I changed was crushing the peppercorns and adding them rather than fiddling around with a sachet of peppercorns and fishing it out at the end. The finished product is a rich, deep purple, with flecks of golden seeds, There’s a cup of balsamic in it, but it tastes mostly of spicy, peppery fig.


With cheese, perhaps? A sharp, sheep’s cheese?

Rating: 3-1/2 (out of five). We opened one jar to go with the cheese starter for Christmas lunch, this was not as awesome as it ought to be. It was ok, but a little watery. More pepper next time? More balsamic? Or just decide to eat figs fresh.

And yes, it was done while the tomatoes were still doing their stuff. I wrote about tomatoes before, so I don’t plan to blog about them this year. Suffice it to two canners are sharing 22 jars of summer in a can. That’s down from 40 jars last year. I see shortages ahead.

How many jars of tomatoes is actually enough?

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No fresh fruit: no problem

I dare not think how cold it is outside right now, but it’s a perfect time to be constructive indoors rather than freezing in the real world. The original plan was mango chutney, but it turns out that mangoes only get to Little India in March, so that scotched that one.

So we homed in on dried fruit, which is available at any time, even if the other ingredients might not be at their peak.

First off was a fig onion jam, which we made a couple of years ago, and which goes like a charm with a sharp cheese or a flavorful pate. It takes time — it always takes time to caramelize onions — but it’s worth the wait. I enjoyed watching the onions go from this

to this, with a bit of patient stirring and the addition of some sugar and vinegar.

The recipe came from my trusted Australian book again, and while I really don’t like buying tomatoes in January, sometimes a gal’s got to do what a gal’s got to do. I bought half the quantity I should have, so topped the quantities up with apple, which adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the finished product.

Fig, tomato and caramelized onion jam
1 tbsp olive oil
4 medium onions
2 tbsp white wine vinegar (we used cider vinegar)
1/4 cup sugar
6 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped (we used 3)
2 apples, peeled and chopped (not in the recipe)
3-1/2 cups dried figs, sliced
1/2 cup lemon juice
4 cups sugar

Fry onions til soft, then caramelize with the vinegar and 1/4 cup sugar until medium brown.

Combine tomato (and apple) and figs in a saucepan and simmer until soft — which means it goes from this

to this in 30 minutes or so.

Add the caramelized onions and the rest of the sugar. Heat gently til the sugar is dissolved, then boil til it sets, maybe 15 minutes.

Bottle and water bath for 10 minutes.

Next up was tigress’s chutney with attitude, which is basically an apple chutney with a lot of stuff to give it a kick. We used cherries, apricots and the rest of the figs as dried fruit, and threw in a pretty decent amount of chili and a lot of ginger.

As promised, it’s got a kick.

It tasted pretty good straight out of the jar. And it can only get better.

Starting to worry again. I need help in eating all these jars.

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It started with a flat of figs

It all started with a flat of figs, a steal at $5.99 from a not-really farmers’ market somewhere outside Princeton, New Jersey.

It ended with 26 jars of five different concoctions, and a definite challenge to Newark’s Airport Security when I head back to the Great White North with four of them tomorrow. Checked luggage time for sure.

But in between times, it really was sort of fun.

The excuse was a weekend visit to the friend who invented canning (well, in my book at least), and while we did plan to get out for a long walk in the winter sunshine today, somehow we never got that far.

So let’s see what we did:

Apple fig chutney

I’ve coveted this chutney ever since I bought a slim recipe book from Australia’s Women’s Weekly magazine a few years back, but fresh figs have always been sold at such a silly price that I never acted on the desire. But at the New Jersey price, what did we have to lose? It’s a basic chutney recipe — take fruit, vinegar, sugar, spices and simmer til thick — but this one seemed good straight out of the pan, while chutneys normally have to mellow for a month or so.  We ate it with cold roast lamb. It would go equally well with cheese, or sausages or anything else that’s going.

Fig and apple chutney

12 medium figs, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 medium apples, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup dry white wine
*1 cup sultanas
*1/4 cup tomato paste
*1 clove garlic
*2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine ingredients and simmer until thick. Bottle.

You can’t get easier than that.

*We omitted the sultanas, and didn’t miss them at all. We also omitted the mustard seeds, because we didn’t have any and the garlic, because we forgot it, and we substituted home-made crushed tomatoes for tomato puree.

Quince juniper chutney

Next up was a quince chutney, which is all part of my campaign to persuade canning buddy to plant a quince tree in her extensive back yard. The internet pointed to something called my mum’s quince chutney, which sounded as though it ought to be good. First there’s the use of ‘mum’ instead of ‘mom’ which appeals to my Brit-roots, and then there’s the liberal use of juniper berries, which add an earthy bitterness to things like gin (and chutneys).  Ours is golden rather than pink, but perhaps that’s because the quinces were green rather than golden. It’s pretty mild right now. Maybe an extra kick next time. Or maybe it just needs to mellow.

Interesting sidenote here. A BlackBerry dictionary doesn’t recognize the word “quince.” I tried.

The canning game continued today, after a diversion to Trader Joes and the shopping mall, where I came home with a lined, wool Anne Klein jacket for $30 (huh?).

Lime pickle

This is another Australian Women’s weekly recipe. I have no clue how it tastes, because I was on the phone failing to buy a house for the crucial finishing moment so didn’t even get to lick the pan. But it was a pretty straightforward mix of spices, vinegar, limes and chili, boiled for 20 eye watering minutes and then canned.

Persian grapefruit marmalade

A scarily easy venture, if you ignore the messy start of peeling and depulping big pink-fleshed grapefruit and boiling the peel up three times to lose some of the bitterness. We got four coral red jars from three rather small grapefruit and a couple of cups of sugar. Easy and very, very nice.

Quince cranberry jam

Back to Tigress in a Jam, perhaps my favorite blogging canner for this one, and again it was faster than the recipe says it is. In fact it just about burned while we were thinking about other things, and it’s almost purple rather than orange red. I will double the ginger next time, and maybe cut the sugar just a notch. And I will also watch things more carefully. Burnt-on jam really isn’t the easiest thing in the world to clean.

It’s in the top right of the picture, a deep, deep cherry red.To round things off, we made a supermoist three-ginger cake, which used root ginger, crystallized ginger and powdered ginger, along with pulped up overripe pears.

Did I ever mention how much I like ginger?

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Less than five dozen jars to go

I did a quick count of the jams and chutneys today, and we’ve crashed below the 60-unopened-jar level, which means all that eating and giving away has made a serious dent in the collection. There are less than a dozen in the fridge (those are the jars that I never got round to water-bathing) and four boxes of jars in the basement, now carefully sorted by age, with the oldest in the box at the top. And excitingly, the sorting unveiled a couple of jars that I had forgotten about, including some 2009 creations that were so special that I saved them rather than opening them. There are a couple of dozen jars of tomato concoctions too, but I was counting jams and chutneys, remember. Crushed tomatoes don’t count.

So for this week, I am opening the seriously spectacular fig-tomato jam from September last year, as well as the July 2009 rhubarb marmalade that ended up forgotten on top in the fridge. I opened it tonight to refresh my memory on the taste, and it’s really rather nice, with a decent set, a pleasant tang and some slightly chewy chunks. It might work with yogurt, or it might need a nice plain pound cake, to counter the sweetness.

Now there’s an idea. A seedcake, perhaps with double the quantity of caraway seeds.

Now I know what my weekend cooking project will be.

That rhubarb marmalade was definitely better than the other 2009 holdout I finished this week, a redcurrant cardamon jam that reminded me why people make jelly out of redcurrants.


Rhubarb marmalade: 4 (out of 5)
Very nice tang, decent chunks, good texture and an unmistakable taste of sweet-sour rhubarb with a little bit of a candied twist.

Redcurrant cardamon jam: 2-1/2 (out of 5)
The taste and the color are specatcular here, and the set is pretty much perfection. But there are too many seeds and too much chewy skin to make a knock-your-socks off jam. And apart from anything else, I really couldn’t taste the cardamon.

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