Figs are such a sensuous fruit, I think. When I eat them, I feel like I should be reclining on a divan with long lustrous hair spilling down my back; and lots of young muscular men fanning me with large palm fronds. And I should be Egyptian.
OK, so none of that even remotely resembles my life. But I can still eat figs this time of year. And there is an abundance to choose from in the farmer’s markets now. There are literally hundreds of types of figs, but the three types I’ve been seeing the most lately have been Black Mission, by far the most heavily grown in California and in the United States in general; Brown Turkey which are brown with gold highlights; and Kadota, which are lime green with amber flesh.
It’s best to be a little picky when buying them. Figs are plump and soft when ripe, and bruise easily when packed and transported. Why not harvest them early, like so much of our produce is? They don’t continue to ripen once they’ve been picked. So, as you can imagine, it’s not easy to get them to the markets undamaged. Look for figs that have a little give to them, but haven’t reached that squishy, soft stage. All figs are highly perishable, so use them within a few days of purchase. And if you’ve got the space in your refrigerator, try to store them flat and uncovered, so they’re not weighing down on each other as this causes bruising and hastens spoilage. A plate works well for this. And keeping them in the refrigerator is a must, but bring them back up to room temperature before eating them for the best flavor.
Figs make for a very healthy snack and can be prepared in so many ways – raw, grilled, roasted, dried, and sautéed all are good ways to work with these little plump guys. I posted a flatbread with grilled figs last week, but this week I’m featuring figs in a starring role for a jam I pair with Farmer’s Cheese on crackers almost every afternoon while they’re in season. I gotta say, drizzling some of this Fig Apple Jam on a couple of crackers shmeered with some soft cheese immediately transports me to Egypt, palm frond fans and all.
Through the week, I’ll be adding more information about figs under the ‘Food Cultural History’, ‘Practical Matters’ and ‘Nutrition’ tabs. And later this week I’ll post my favorite recipe for making Farmer’s Cheese at home. It’s a wonderful soft, mild cheese that’s great for pairing with fruits.
A Few Cooking Notes:
Making your own brown sugar is so easy, and produces a fresh, soft product that has a more molasses-y flavor. I always keep some in my pantry, and have added a link below in the recipe to how I make it and store it. Or you can just go to the ‘My Pantry’ tab and see it there.
When making the jam, the simmering time can vary according to how moist the figs are. Generally the jam should simmer until the fruit is very, very soft. The figs still retain their shape thanks to the skin, but some of the flesh has disintegrated into the syrup. If you want it more syrupy, don’t simmer it as long. And don’t forget that the syrup will change viscosity as it cools.
If you realize you’ve simmered it too long and it’s not syrupy enough, just add a little water, reheat and stir to get the consistency you want.
Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
Fig Apple Jam
Makes 1 1/3 cups preserves
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
- 13 ounces figs (I used Brown Turkey, but Black Mission will work great too)
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 4 ounces brown sugar (or you can make your own like I do!)
- 4 ounces agave nectar
- pinch salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cinnamon stick
- zest of 1 medium navel orange (1 teaspoon packed)
Halve the figs, and quarter any that are really huge. Place in a pot.
Core and peel the apple, and chop into ½” cubes. Place in the pot with the figs.
Add everything else to the pot and heat over medium-low heat, stirring until the brown sugar liquefies.
Simmer over low heat for 30 min, occasionally stirring with a metal spoon. Remove cinnamon stick and simmer for another 30 min. (You can leave the cinnamon stick in if you prefer more cinnamon flavor.)
Pour into a jar and let it cool. When cool, store in the refrigerator.