This year our Black Mission Fig tree went bananas! Groans acknowledged and appreciated. Perhaps it was the rather brutal pruning we gave it last year that sent it into stress and compelled it to reproduce in the form of blooms, fruit and seeds.
I love walking past that tree every morning on my way down to the barnyard, and at this time of year I often have breakfast on the way, plucking the low-hanging fruit for an indescribably sweet, chilled taste of fall. Nevertheless, one can only eat so many fresh figs and I haven’t mastered the dehydrator.
Last year I found this recipe for Drunken Fig Jam and made a few jars of the sweet, savory condiment. This year I’ve already canned a dozen half-pint jars…I’m thinking Christmas presents. If you can get your hands on four pounds of figs — preferably Black Mission but other figs will do — this jam works with both sweet and savory dishes and goes nicely with lamb chops, over pancakes or on a piece of crusty bread with a schmear of chevre or brie cheese.
Below is my slightly altered recipe from Epicurious…I only reduced the sugar from four cups to three.
4 pounds ripe fresh figs (preferably black), stemmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 9 cups)
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup brandy or Cognac
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Using a vegetable peeler, remove thin outer rind from lemons in long strips, peeling from top to bottom of fruit. Cut into matchstick-size strips (about 3 tablespoons).
Remove stem ends and chop figs into 1/2 inch pieces. Combine lemon peel, figs, sugar, brandy and salt in heavy, deep saucepan. Let stand at room temperature for one 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, sterilized 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 and apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
And then, what to do with those peeled lemons? Well, in the spirit of drunken fruit, how about Lemon Drop Martinis?