I’ve had fig trees for many years, but the grasshoppers killed them and I have missed them. The gift of 5 pounds of figs from an organic farm was a thrill. These had to be made into the best jam I could concoct — better than I’d ever made in years past.
Thinking of places where figs grow in common abundance, even wild out of rock crevasses, this is my recipe for the best fig jam I’ve ever tasted. The reduced sugar allows the flavor of the figs to shine through and adding orange and vanilla enhances the flavor of figs.
Makes 10 half-pints
• 5 pounds fresh, very ripe figs
• 4 cups cane sugar
• candied zest of one orange
• 1 vanilla bean
Note on alternative ingredients: If you didn’t make candied peels last winter, substitute just the zest of a large orange, stripped off with a potato peeler. If you don’t have vanilla beans, substitute a tablespoon of real vanilla extract.
1. Measure the sugar into the work bowl of your food processor. Add in the orange peel and process until the peel is tiny specks. Doing this also pulverizes the sugar to “super fine” so it dissolves more easily.
2. Put the sugar back into the measuring cup and put the figs into the processor and pulse until the figs are nicely chopped with still some larger pieces. Do this about a third at a time. Don’t crowd them and don’t process too long — you do not want a puree, just chopped. As they’re done, pour the figs into your jam pot. Then pour the sugar over the top.
3. Give the mixture a quick stir, then leave it while you get out jars, your water bath pot, and equipment. Make sure your jars are impeccably clean with no chips. Fill the water bath with hot water and put it on to heat.
4. The fig mixture will be juicing out and the sugar starting to dissolve. Give it a more thorough stir and let it sit again. It takes at least 1 hour for the mixture to be syrupy with no dry sugar showing.
5. If you’re using a vanilla bean, put that into the figs now and put the pot over medium heat. Stir frequently, the mixture is thick and could scorch if not attended. Bring the jam to a slow boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer, still stirring frequently.
6. Now dip your jars and equipment, ladle and funnel, and put the jars upside down on a clean towel next to the stove.
7. Continue to cook the jam, stirring for about 15 minutes. It will be very thick, easily coating the spoon. Scrape down the sides of the pot back into the jam. When the jam looks very translucent and shiny, it’s ready.
8. Remove the vanilla bean or add the vanilla extract. Turn off the heat and ladle the jam into jars. Seal and process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove to a towel leaving space between the jars to cool. Allow the jars of jam plenty of time to cool and “ping”, then label (including the year), and store in a dark place.
9, Rinse the vanilla bean and replace it in a bottle with a little vodka or brandy — you can use it a few times.
Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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