Gettin’ Figgy Wid IT
The figs are starting to ripen around here and so its time to make fig preserves. I never liked figs as a kid. Well. Maybe that’s not true. I never tasted figs as a kid. They looked gross. I am sure that’s how the whole “make fake strawberry jam outta figs” got started! Some mother decided to trick her kids into eating figs and it caught on.
Anyway, my old house, the cottage, which is now a rental house, has a huge fig tree and while I was living there I felt guilty to let the figs go to waste, so one day I called mama and asked her how to fix them. I’ve been in love with them ever since.
Ripe figs will have some good color on them and they should pull off the branch easily. The only hard part about picking them is reaching all the ones at the top of the tree. I will have to bring a ladder next time! And of course it’s a law that your nose will itch while yours fingers are all sticky with fig juice.
It’s easy really. Preserves are nothing but fruit and sugar. Some recipes add some extra ingredients but I prefer them plain and simple.
First thing to do after picking, is to take off any stems that remain and rinse off any bugs. Ants love figs, so be sure to get rid of them.
Put them in a pot with a cup or two of water. I don’t have an actual recipe, but roughly 2:1, figs to sugar. I looked up some recipes to get the ratio, but when I tried that, they seemed just a little too sweet to me. So I go a little less sugar. I’m not sure if it does anything, but I also added a tiny pinch of salt as some recipes included.
Last year, I tried a recipe that included some lemon juice. I didn’t care for it. Mama also told me that Granddaddy used to add slices of lemon when he cooked them and that the lemon would be candied when he finished cooking. Now THAT sounds good!
Boil for 2-3 hours, stirring to prevent sticking. Burnt sugar is not a good smell. Trust me. It takes at least two hours, but cook until liquid is thick and mostly non-existent. I like to mash the figs when I stir. The figs should be cooked down to almost 1/2 of the original amount.
Notice how thick they are in the above picture. This is how the final product should look. You can easily see from these pictures that fig preserves are not beautiful things. And in fact, are not particularly appetizing looking whatsoever. Brown just does not lend itself well to food. Again, I believe that’s why some smooth mama decided to add some color and call them “strawberries.”
I got about 12 jelly jars (half pints) from this cooking. I was giving all these to friends and co-workers to be eaten immediately, so I didn’t bother with sealing the jars. My next cooking will be going into my pantry for use during the next few months, so I will be taking the precautions to keep them fresh. I will run the jars through the dishwasher and fill them while they are still hot. The hot jars and the hot preserves will quickly seal the lids if you get them on quickly.
These do not last long around our house.
Is there a food you’ve discovered as an adult, that you were wrong about as a child?