Tuesday, August 23, 2011

a pound of figs

Impromptu fig jam

I woke up with a hankering for toast and jam, and lucky me, I had just made a lovely semolina boule. But travesty struck, as it does so often in innocent households: I found that I was sans les confitures.

I could have been devastated, because you know, a jamless house can render a poor soul to that lot. But I circumvented such despair in view of an awaiting pound of perfectly ripe figs.

Lemons, cardamom, a pound of sticky fruit; no sooner were the grounds in my french press steeped that my brainstorm was nearing the finish line.

And then, behold, there was jam.

Impromptu fig jam with cardamon & red wine


1 pound of fresh, ripe figs
1/4 cup + 1 TB red wine
1/2 cup water
2 TB + 2 tsp fresh lemon  juice
1 strip of zest from the lemon
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 TB + 1 tsp organic turbinado sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 stick of cinnamon
A couple of rasps of nutmeg
1 pinch ground cloves

1) Slice the lids off of the figs and cut them in half.

2) Add them along with the rest of the ingredients to an awaiting pot, reserving 1/2 tsp of vanilla and 2 tsp of lemon juice.

3) Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Let this cook for 45 minutes over a very low flame, or until it's thick and jammy, stirring frequently to keep it from scorching. Sprinkle some water into the pot if it looks like it's about to scorch, or if it's cooking too quickly and the figs have not broken down yet.

4) When the jam has adequately thickened, add the last 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 tsp of the reserved lemon juice to brighten it. Stir and taste, adding the last tsp of lemon if necessary.

A note on working with fresh fruit: At this point of the jam making process, this is your opportunity to balance the tart and sweet, since the sugar level in fruit can vary widely. Your figs might be sweeter than another's, and you may need more or less lemon juice to balance out the finished jam. The discerning power of your palate is important here. I find that all jam recipes need to be tweaked according to how much sugar and acid is in the fruit to begin with. Don't be afraid to add a bit more sugar if necessary either. It won't hurt to stir in a few pinches at the end of the cooking process. The proper thing to do is taste the finished jam, and add sweet or sour elements in small increments until it tastes balanced.

5) Once you've successfully balanced the sweet/sour, remove the jam from the heat and allow to cool a bit before transferring to small Mason jars fitted with lids. Store in the refrigerator.

Mangia bene, vivi felice!


  1. Aww the pictures are so pretty! Me wants some of that jam:)

  2. Thank you for your kind words! This jam is so addictive, I found that I was 'hungry' all day long, and now, it's almost gone!

  3. Hmmm.. This jam is tempting me so bad! I wanna try making it. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Hi Tom. This was probably the easiest thing I've made in a long time. Pop it all in a pot, and let it go! The hardest part is trying not to eat it all right out of the jar ; ) Good luck!

  5. This will be a nice change from the usual lemon ginger fig preserves we make every year. I picked, halved and froze the figs a couple of months ago as the temps have been too high and there has been no rain.

  6. Oooh, the lemon ginger preserves sound good. When I was eating the jam (out of the jar with demitasse spoon, shhhh), I came across the lemon zest strip. I think it was the best part of the jam.

  7. As always, beautiful photos and enchanting food. Fresh figs are too expensive and such a rare treat where I am, that I can't bear to do anything other than eat them fresh. (The rest of the year I subsist on the dried variety). Thanks for your comment last week on the bread--I haven't had a chance to respond thoughtfully as we were on vacation, but I've had so many problems with sticky dough that I've bagged the tartine breads until next winter (when I didn't seem to have the same trouble). Have been making my Dan Leader Local Breads recipes in the meantime.

  8. Sara, this post is lucky that they arrived home uneaten. I usually eat fresh figs in the car on the way home from the farmer's market. Alas, I am spoiled. Not only does my friend have a prolific fig tree in her yard, but along my daily walk with my dog there are several, and I can occasionally fill a bag with the black fruit - along with avocados, lemons, oranges and my most recent discovery: persimmons. My eye is set upon that ripening tree.

    Tartine...it's not an easy book, I will grant. I do LOVE local breads by Leader. I think that he is my favorite voice in bread. His path is open and honest, and I love that with bread alone he recognizes how much he's grown. Suffice it to say, be sure to look for errata pages for those two books. I think that if you go to Bread Alone Bakery's website, there is a page devoted to such. An indispensable bit of information, in case you run into an issue with one of the breads.

    Lucky girl, vacationing.

    - Frankie

  9. I like how you doing the step by step knotting, I would definitely bookmark this page and I also the fig jam. great job.

  10. Thanks again Raquel. I'm sad figs are leaving us, but there will be loads of fun things to do with winter fruit too. Check back this week for a new post. I can't wait to check out your blog too.

  11. I would love to make this, but yeah figs are so pricey! are you using Mission, calimyrna....? I made my first attempt last year at making jam and it came out really good....vanilla ginger rhubarb! Gave some away as gifts....

  12. Hi Dina. I used mission. Alas, only a few more days to go before figs are gone for the year.

    Your vanilla ginger rhubarb sounds delish!


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