You’ll recall that I had a fig emergency not too long ago. Too many figs from my tree and (despite commenter Moshe’s suggestion to just eat them all) no inclination to eat them all in one sitting. Recipe ideas were considered (and thanks all of you!), and I made a decision. I was looking for a way to preserve them, not how to immediately eat them, and so sadly I did not take up all the lovely suggestions of things to do. By a day or two later I had several more, and so it became urgent. As hinted at by the post entitled “Jam Tomorrow” (which I took a while to deliver on – sorry) you can guess what I decided to do: Fig Jam, of course!
So I bring you the first of what I expect to be several trips to the kitchen on Asymptotia, where we go through all the steps together (remember the Taiwan-inspired Beef Lo Mein that I did on CV?). So the thing to do is chop up those figs into smaller chunks -roughly eighths (keep halving three times):
I looked at various sources for an idea of the proportions of ingredients, and eventually settled on a few that I decided to hybridize. I’ll leave it to you to google on “fig jam” and find your own ideas, I found that there is a popular Epicurious recipe, which first appeared in Gourmet magazine some years back, that uses roughly the following (I did not do the rum and sesame seeds mentioned elsewhere):
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
2 lb firm-ripe fresh figs
2 strips fresh lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
… proportions that I rescaled (see below).
This meant that I needed an idea of the actual weight of the figs. I don’t actually have any scales in the kitchen or anywhere in the house. (I usually use volume measurements in my cooking.) So this meant that I would have to rush out to the shops to get a scale. This did not appeal to me, and after a short while I remembered that I’m actually a physicist, and so can use other means to get an estimate, fashioning some scales from the things around me. So a five pound bag of flour, a bottle of wine, a large chopping board, a digital camera, a pen, and a quick computation gave me an estimate of the weight. Further computations on the back of an envelope were needed to rescale the rest of the recipe (but not scaling the sugar content too much as recipes tend to just totally destroy the fruit with too much sugar … here I agree with a comment of Moshe’s completely, and am in fact grateful for the reminder)
Other ingredients include lemon juice, lemon rind, cinammon sticks, sugar and water. Here is everything, assembled and ready to go:
Now for the jam making. Get the water into a large pot/pan, over a medium fire. Dissolve the sugar into it. I used both brown and white sugar because (1) Brown sugar is the best thing ever, and (2) Can’t use too much of it if I want some of the colour of the figs to survive, so white will have to be used too.
In with the figs, the lemon and other ingredients:
… and then stir it all up a bit:
Soon, the whole thing will start to come to a gentle boil/simmer (you’ll see a white foam beginning to form). Turn the heat down low at this point, and you should be prepared to stir occasionally as the process of jam-making takes place. You do not want caramelized sugar to form on the bottom and begin to stick….. and worse.
While you wait, this is a good time to prepare the jars for bottling. You want them sterile. Put the jars, and their lids, and the implement that you will be using to handle them (such as the ends of some long tongs) into another large pot (or two) of water and bring to a boil.
After a while in the boiling water they will be ready to take out (with the tongs), hold upside down to drain for a few seconds, and then put on a counter the right way up ready for the jam. You can leave them and the lids in the pots out of the way until the jam is ready. (No, that is not my pet cow taking them out…. it’s one of a cow-head-shaped set of oven mitts that physicist Rob Myers brought as a gift when he visited me on a collaborative trip (he’d heard that I was breadmaking) – back when I was in Kentucky several years ago.)
Open a bottle of red wine at this point. Pour some into a glass. Wait for a little while for it to get some air into it, perhaps swirling it around in the glas a few times. While you wait for the jam to cook, drink some of this wine.
This really has nothing to do with the recipe, but certainly helps the time pass pleasantly:
Soon (I’m thinking you should do this first after about 45 – 50 minutes) you will have to start testing the mixture to see if it is beginning to form jam. You can do this in a number of ways. What you are looking to establish is whether or not the mixture will set when cooled. so to do this, cool some of it. So either take a teaspoon of it and put it onto a plate and into the fridge of freezer for a few minutes, or dip it into iced water. Then test the consistency. If it is prone to stay disturbed when you run your finger through it (not flowing back to where it was) and if is it to a degree that meets your satisfaction, then you can can start bottling. (From putting into the pan to the end, the process of formation can take anywhere from 1 hour to 90 minutes depending upon what you’re looking for.)
This is the point that is most dangerous to the flavour of the finished product, and so one should be the most attentive at this point, stirring carefully and not letting the thing begin to overcook or burn on the bottom. I have to report here that I made the classic mistake at this point. I did the test, and thought “another five minutes and I’m done”, and went to check my email, or the blog, or do a computation, or some such thing. Ten minutes later I remembered with a start and ran to the stove. Sure enough, it had begun to burn a little on the bottom. Not much, but just enough to add a slightly burnt flavour to the jam that should really not have been there, and I had to sacrifice a bit of the jam closest to the burn which had the most flavour and colour pollution. (It turned out that the burnt flavour faded with time, and the fig flavour was really quite delicious despite my stupidity, but I really should not have done that, given the number of times I’ve done this before.)
So, there we have it. I managed to spread my fig crop well into October. I’ve been having it for breakfast every day, and I just finished the third and final jar today. I really should have kept one of them for the bleak midWinter, but I could not stop myself.