Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gettin' Figgy with It: Honey-Fig Jam


Here in the Northeast, fig season is nearly over. Giovanni (the old-school Italian gent who sells us green "Paradiso" figs from his giant backyard tree in South Philly) has made his last Farmstand delivery of the year, and though it may be taboo to post a recipe for a soon-to-be out-of-season fruit, I just can't help myself.

Before I moved to Philly and started working at the Farmstand two and a half years ago, my feelings toward figs were similar to my feelings toward caviar. To me, these little jammy sacs were delicious, but way too impractical for everyday eating. Their season is short—from late summer to early or mid-fall—and when they finally appeared in grocery stores up in NYC (where I lived for most of my twenties) they seemed vastly overpriced and lasted only a day or two on the shelves. Regardless, they sold out immediately each year, and eventually I accepted that perhaps figs were just too good for my humble apartment kitchen.

In fact, I think I actually rolled my eyes when I witnessed my first fig delivery at the Farmstand...sometime in August of 2011. Here we go, I thought. Just another over-hyped trend food. 

For curiosity's sake, I grabbed one and popped it in my mouth. It was sweet and plump and smooth and rich, with a flavor somewhere between the mildest plum and the ripest pear. My preconceptions melted away that year, as each shift I hoarded the discount figs for salads and lunches of chevre and figs on toast. Last year I roasted them and baked them in a tart, and now, as my third fig season comes to a close, I am proud to say that I've graduated to fig jam.

At $1.00 each, I still consider them a treat, but when an overstock at the 'Stand spurned an impromptu fig sale, I jumped on it immediately and bought eight dozen for wedding favor jam. As it turned out, the two batches I made were the easiest so far. Since figs don't have pits and are quite jammy in their raw state, they need very little prep—just a buzz in the food processor, skins and all. And compared to the other jams I've made so far, figs require the smallest amount of sweetener. For one batch of Honey-Fig Jam, for instance, all I needed was 1/2 cup of honey! 

If it's too late to buy figs in your area, stow this recipe away for next year, along with my condolences. But if there's a chance—even a remote one—run to your farmers' market and use the following recipe to preserve the last figs of the year. Not overwhelmingly sweet, this jam is great for desserts and savory dishes. Slather it on hot biscuits, spoon it over ice cream, dab it on toast with chevre, spread it on flatbread with proscuitto and gorgonzola, or use it as a glaze for ham. 

Honey-Fig Jam

Makes 12 4-ounce jars or 6 1/2-pint jars of jam

4 dozen fresh figs (2-1/2 to 3 pounds), stems removed
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup light-colored local honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Wash your jars, lids, and bands thoroughly with soap and hot water. Sterilize the jars in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Place the lids and bands in a heatproof bowl and cover them with boiling water. Place a small plate in the freezer.

Cut the figs into quarters and place them in a large, deep pot. Pour in the lemon juice, water, and honey and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, or until the figs have begun to break down and their skins are soft.

Remove the pot from the heat and blend the fig mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth. (Alternatively, you can process the mixture right in the pot with an emulsion blender.) Once the mixture is smooth, pour it back into to the pot and return the pot to the stove over medium heat.

Cook the mixture for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the jam gels. When the jam is done, it should pour off a spoon in a stream, not in a dribble. To test for doneness, place a small amount of jam on the plate in the freezer and freeze it for 2 minutes. Remove the plate from the freezer and run your finger through the pool of jam—if it stays divided, it's set.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Bring the large pot of hot water back to a boil.

Ladle the hot jam into the sterilized jars. Wipe any jam splatters from the rims, top each jar with a lid, and screw on the bands. Process the jars in the boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

5 comments:

  1. Sounds great, and I'm not even a fig lover! I think I can still find them in late Oct. here in No. Calif.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Bonnie! You don't have to be a fig lover to love fig jam. It's so versatile you'll be really happy to have it in the pantry. Let me know how it turns out!

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  2. This looks delicious! I loooove figs.

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  3. I knew I bought my big canning pot for a reason. This looks amazing!

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    1. Seriously, Autumn. If you can get your hands on a bunch of figs--any variety--you owe it to yourself!

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