Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In a Jam

“They go together like kids and figs.”

Isn’t that the saying?

Maybe I’m thinking of baseball and apple pie, or peanut butter and jelly.

It is entirely possible that most kids I know (and adults for that matter) have never tasted a fresh fig, let alone fallen in love with them.

I am here to say, “Give figs a chance!” I mean, why should peas be the only produce that are given a chance?

Any-who, why am I championing the much-ignored fig? I happen to find them delightful, they are very healthy and are in abundance currently in my own backyard.

Also, out of three daughters, a third of them like the figs. Guess which one. Yes, the picky eater, the chef, the middle child. Go figure. She eats them fresh from the tree like I do, both of us requiring reins to keep from getting fig-sick.

The fig is so historic and so fleeting, being ripe for only a few weeks each year. In fact, last year a massive hailstorm destroyed about 95% of our crop.

This year is different.

We are picking roughly 2 quarts of figs each day and that doesn’t count the ones the ants and birds claimed first. I am not a jerk. I share the figs.

The middle child and I were busy gorging ourselves on the delicious, honey-flavored fruit when we decided to try to preserve the stuff. They are such delicate fruit that they only last about a day or two off of the trees and bruise easily. What could we make?


Sounds like a winner.

Tools of the trade
The eldest child said, “I don’t think I like fig jam.” And continued watching some show about kids who don’t ever incur consequences for the ridiculous things they do…you know, Every-Disney-Nick-Show. That one.

The youngest said, “I want to help cut the figs.” The prospect of having two kids, eight and under, wielding knives in a two square-foot space near me was not exciting.

“I need a label designer,” I pitched, appealing to her artistic sensibilities.

“Okay! I can make pretty red labels.” And she was off with a lid as a template.

The middle child and I set up the large wooden cutting board and colander of figs between us. We each grabbed a knife and a bowl and started snagging figs to dice.

“Chefs always have to taste what they are working on,” she said, snarfing down a small fig. “Especially figs.”

Sidebar: At this point, I already had placed the large, black enameled canning pot on the stove. I filled it with water, put on the lid and started trying to boil the water. I also had already washed all of the jars with soap and water.

“I bet Giada has a fig tree,” she said next (referencing Giada DeLaurentis, her idol, whom she has met twice). “I know she tries figs when she is cutting them.”

We continued taking the two types of figs-both sold to us as Brown Turkey figs, but obviously not both the same thing-and dicing them small. We had plenty to chop. She kept chopping and snarfing.

“The figs are saying ‘eat me!’ I can’t help it.” She said. “They are irresistible, aren’t they?”

We worked our way finally through the whole mountain of figs and combined our bowls of chopped fruit. The water had fortuitously begun boiling in the pot by this time. I added the clean jars to the boiling water in the canner, along with the lids. I replaced the canner lid and started preparing the jam.

The middle child helped put the figs and water in the pot.

“I feel like we have our own Smuckers company!” she exclaimed as she added the sugar to the boiling fruit. “It looks like Mt. Kilimanjaro of figs, all snowy on top.”

I took over the process at this point, after she added the lemon juice. Boiling-hot syrupy fruit, molten glass jars and scalding water is not conducive to childhood safety. From a stool across the kitchen, she kept an eye out.

“Why do we have to sterilize the jars?” she asked. “Oh, wait. To clean them so the jam will be okay?”


I pulled a hot jar out of the water, put the wide-mouthed funnel in the jar, ladled the hot fig jam into the jar, used the canning stick to remove the air bubbles in the jam, wiped the rim of the jar with a damp paper towel and pulled a lid out of the boiling water with the magnet stick. I placed the lid straight on the jar and added the threaded ring.

I filled up nine jars. Seven glass jars and two freezer jars.

All the glass jars had to be popped back into the water bath canner to be boiled until they were sterilized (there is a government-sanctioned, super-secret way to know what food has to be processed for what time-I don’t question the canning magicians, I just follow the chart) and soon they were ready to come out and sit on the counter until their lids popped down and they were sealed.

The two freezer jars had to sit overnight before going into the freezer.

We sat back and admired our pioneer-quality stash. The youngest came in bearing a stack of labels proudly. We now have the best-dressed fig jam you’ve ever seen!

Post-script: After slathering the jam on toast later, the middle child declared that the jam was “Good, but more savory than I expected.” I think she may watch too much Food Network.


RebeccaCarrell said...

Love it!!! :-) Never tried fig jam, but now I think I must!

Emily said...

Some recipes call for something like seven cups of sugar for one batch. This only took four. Still very sweet but not overly so. Very yummy!

Anonymous said...

nice posting. thanks for sharing

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