When I was a child, I remember pulling a fig from a tree. I ate it. I hated it. Twenty years later, I encountered the fruit again. This time, it was in Madrid, at a small tapas joint. I ordered a cheese board and what came to the table was a simple, yet delectable arrangement of cheeses accompanied by little white cups holding raw honey, Marcona almonds, and a dark and mysterious gelatinous substance. The waiter almost rolled his eyes when I asked him what it was. He told me it was fig jam. Oh, no, I thought. Nonetheless, I did as the patient waiter told me and spread the jam on a piece of crusty bread. Then I topped it with a slice of Manchego. Oh, my.
Ever since then, I have always been in search of good fig jam. One day, I decided to make my own. When it’s in season, I use it all the time – for prosciutto, brie, and arugula sandwiches, with a variety of hard cheeses, as a glaze for a turkey roast, and even atop rustic pizza. If you’d like to make your own fig jam, here’s a simple and easy recipe. Keep your eyes open when you go to the market for these little fruits. You will see them arrive late summer and through the fall. I usually buy them in small quantities (about 1/2 a pound) at a time. Make the jam in small batches. I have learned that home-made jam without preservatives doesn’t last long – maybe 10 days. It won’t even last that long in my house because I will have it on toast in the mornings, with Greek yogurt as a snack, or with cheese at the cocktail hour.
(*Double up on the ingredients, except the cinnamon, if making 1 lbs. of figs. You can always give an extra jar away as a gift).
- 1/2 lbs of ripe figs
- 1/2 cup of cane sugar
- 1/2 cup of water
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- Zest of 1/2 lime
- 1 stick of cinnamon (optional)
- A dash of ground ginger
1. Wash and dry the figs. Cut off stems. Cut figs in half.
2. Put the figs in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the sugar and mix so the sugar becomes moist. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the water. Don’t skim on the sugar!
3. Put the pot on the heat. Add the water and bring to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, lower to medium (or medium-low) heat. You want it to simmer actively, but not boil. Don’t forget to stir.
4. Your house will start to smell like sweet heaven. The figs will turn darker in color as the water dissolves. Keep on stirring.
5. Turn the heat down a bit more, remove and discard the cinnamon stick. (The cinnamon can overpower the taste of the figs). Cook for another 15-20 minutes, mashing up the fruit with a wooden spoon as you stir.
6. The jam will thicken noticeably. It should be done by now. If you think it’s too thick, add water and simmer until the jam reaches the right consistency. If you think it’s too watery, cook the jam some more.
7. Once you determine the preserves are done, turn off the heat, let cool, and set aside overnight at room temperature. But… wait! Don’t just walk away. Here comes the best part of the whole process. Toast a piece of bread and smear a good spoonful of the jam. I can’t believe I wasted so much time hating this delicate fruit.
8. In the morning, check again to see if the preserves are either too watery or too thick and correct as needed.
9. Store your delicious preserves in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Let’s see how long yours lasts!