Not so long ago, right after we moved into our new house, I started harassing a friend of mine who has a prolific fig tree in her back yard. “Let me know,” I’d post on her wall, “WHEN THE FIGS COME IN.” I’m pretty sure I used caps, because it was a truly serious matter.
A week or two later, my grandmother came over to check out our new digs and, sitting at the porch, she points to a tree by the back fence, a good 40′ away, at least.
“Is that a fig tree?”
No, silly grandma! You’re so old, and you can’t see, and.. wait. Is that a fig tree? Upon closer inspection of the, well, tiny figs on the tree, we concurred that, yes, my grandmother is right. I, lover of figs, owner of this huge fig tree, know nothing about plants, at all. René Redzepi, Michelin-starred forager extraordinaire, is so, so sad right now, wherever he is, and he doesn’t know why. But I’m why.
Figs are in season right now , and you need to get your hands on some (if you don’t have an accidental fig tree in your backyard)! Figs don’t last long at all, nor do they freeze well, so to be able to enjoy these sweet little fruits with their soft, pink flesh, jam is the perfect method of prolonging fig season.
I’d made fig jam before, but wasn’t impressed with the results. This year’s batch, on the other hand, literally provokes an audible moan every time I take a bite of the stuff. It’s sweet, but balanced, a mere suggestion of citrus, and a depth from its “drunkenness”.
You’ll love this recipe because the taste is complex, yet simple, perfectly sweet, and an easy way to extend fig season all year! Paired with a bit of cheese or just crackers, it’s an elegant hors d’ouevre for last-minute entertaining.
I followed an Epicurious recipe that I scaled down, which added brandy and lemon peel. It’s incredible on a simple butter cracker, and would be a beautiful addition to some goat cheese, brie, or even just aged parmigiano reggiano. Try slathering some on a prosciutto, apple, and arugula sandwich, or replacing the traditional lingonberry or grape jam in Swedish meatballs with a dollop of your drunken fig jam for a gorgeous depth and sophisticated sweetness.
I’m including the original portions and canning instructions, but I’m adding the scaled-down portions I used at the end. I’m keeping my big jar in the fridge, but I doubt it will be there long!
Drunken Fig Jam
- 2 lemons
- 4 pounds ripe fresh figs (preferably black), stemmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 9 cups)
- 4 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup brandy or Cognac
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Using vegetable peeler, remove peel from lemons (yellow part only) in long strips. Cut peel into matchstick-size strips (about 3 tablespoons).
Combine lemon peel, figs, sugar, brandy, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in heavy large deep saucepan; let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Bring fig mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; continue to boil until jam thickens and is reduced to 6 cups, stirring frequently and occasionally mashing mixture with potato masher to crush large fig pieces, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat.
Ladle mixture into 6 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.
Note: I used 1.3 pounds (about 21 ounces) stemmed and halved figs; lemon peel from a bit more than half of one lemon; 1.3 cups sugar; 1/4 cup brandy; and a pinch of salt.