Fig jam seems so elegant to me. Luxurious spread on toast, or on crostini served with cheddar, blue, or Parmesan cheese, or a slice of apple, or spread on brie before you enclose it in pastry to bake as an appetizer. Pretty pricey if you buy it in specialty food shops.
And wouldn’t it be grand if we could grow figs here in Maine (though I suppose someone does in a greenhouse or some other protected environment) and went out to pick ripe ones to make into jam. So the good news is that we can make fig jam from dried figs which I decided to do in order to make some Christmas presents, and to have a little leftover to serve for some festive occasion during the upcoming holidays.
I also have a memory of a filled Christmas cookie my mom used to make, with two rounds of cookie dough with a blob of preserve between. This fig jam would be the perfect filling. Or a filling for thumb-print cookies. Or dropped into a little pastry shell with some toothsome cheese, warmed in the oven. And, and, and.
It is wicked easy. Simmer a package of dried figs in water with sugar and lemon juice added until the figs are tender. Heave it into a food processor, give it a whirl until it is smooth, flavor with a little balsamic vinegar and cardamom and that is it. You might prefer to flavor with cinnamon or vanilla; you might also want to use more sugar. Suit yourself.
Real balsamic vinegar ought to be a light syrup, coat a spoon, and have a distinctly sweet taste. It is costly. I make a version of balsamic vinegar that mimics the expensive stuff: you can acquire a cheap balsamic at the grocery store, and reduce it to a syrup in a saucepan over a low heat; it takes a couple of hours. It is a pleasant tart-sweet when done and coats a spoon. I label the little bottle full with the words “faux b.v.” That is what I used in this recipe.
I used a nine-ounce package of figs. You can easily double this or halve it. If your figs look a little dry, dribble in a bit more water. If they are very dry, they might require cooking a little longer to achieve tenderness.
- 9 ounces whole dried figs
- 1½ cups water
- ½ cup turbinado or light brown sugar
- ½ to 1 cup white sugar, to taste
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar to taste
- ¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
- Put the figs, water, sugar, and lemon juice in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the figs are tender, about twenty minutes.
- Allow to cool slightly and then put into a food processor and process until it is a smooth paste.
- Add the vinegar, stirring well after each addition and tasting until it suits your taste.
- Add the cardamom and mix well.
- Put into small jelly jars and, if you intend to store them for a couple of months, adjust the lids and rings, and process in boiling water bath for about ten minutes.