This year has been a bumper year for figs in our area, but only because it’s not rained for more than a month. This lack of rain gives the figs time to ripen and concentrate their sugar. If you think about the climates associated with figs, it’s usually hot and dry – just like August 2013 in Baltimore!Fresh figs are a rare treat, mainly because they’re so fragile as a commercial crop when they’re ripe. They are quite soft and smash easily. I was given access to a friend’s fig tree and went over there last weekend to check out the crop. The figs weren’t ripe yet, so we only got about two dozen… hardly enough to make jam, but I managed.
A week of great weather and no rain was all the figs needed! We got tons today! I probably picked about five pounds, and my friend Julie picked slightly less than that. It was then over to William-Sonoma to check and see if they’d gotten in the small Weck jars that I like, which they had. I bought out their stock – all 12 of the 5.4 oz. size and headed home to make the jam.
The recipe is simple (you can find it here from last year) and it is worth repeating. I cut the stem ends off the figs, but don’t peel them, as I don’t have nearly enough patience to do that, and it’s generally unnecessary. I quarter the figs because it’s the simples way to cut them. Cut. Turn. Cut.Toss them in a heavy pan with sugar, lemon peel, bourbon and a pinch of salt.Let them sit for at least an hour and stir occasionally. The sugar will begin to release the juices from the fruit. Once you begin cooking, bring to a boil and then simmer gently for about 35 minutes to cook down, stirring occasionally. I give the jam a couple of whizzes with the immersion blender (the most amazing kitchen tool) and keep stirring. You want the jam to be chunky, but not overly so. Fish out the pieces of lemon peel. You’re supposed to julienne them, but I don’t like the long pieces in the jam after it’s finished. By this time, the jam should be a gorgeous dark brown and ready for putting in the jars, which of course, you’ve sterilized. If you drip any of the jam on the outside of the jar, clean it off with a damp cloth. (If you’re wondering why it says “vegetable” upside down, I use one side of the cutting board for veg and the other side for fruit… nothing worse than garlic-tinged strawberries!)As I mentioned, I bought 12 of the 5.4 oz. jars, and made enough jam for 12.5 jars of jam!Add the clamps to the jars and refrigerate. It will keep well in the fridge… I am not sure about its shelf-life in the cupboard though!I checked the jam in the half-filled jar, and it looks like it’s set up nicely and gelled well! I love this served over a little bit of goat cheese on a nice cracker. It’s also a great size to give someone as a host/ess gift. And it’s great to have for breakfast on toast. Right, Reggie?