Jammin' with figs

There are some big fig fans out there. After my September column in The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., many of you emailed me asking for my fig jam recipe. Now, I told y’all you could just give me those pesky figs, that are just in your way, taking up space. But, no, you want to do it yourself.

Fine. Here’s the recipe, which is not really difficult. Making jam is not hard, it just takes a little time and the right equipment. You’ll need a boiling water-bath canner, which you can find at good hardware stores or discount stores. You’ll also need canning jars with lids. Do not be tempted to reuse mayonnaise jars or some such thing. The glass will break or the lids won’t seal. I can’t tell you what a pain it is to clean out a canner in which a defective jar has burst, spreading glass and messy contents all over the other jars.

I like to put jam in half-pint size jars. It’s a nice gift size, which is primarily what I do with the jams I make all summer – give them away.

Make sure your canning jars are clean and sterile. Put them through the dishwasher, or wash by hand in hot soapy water, then put the lids and rims in a pot of boiling water until you need them. Otherwise, you’ll be known as the person who gave the family botulism for Christmas. Check the lids to be sure the strip of rubber (it may be orange or red) is complete and unblemished. I have rarely found defective lids, but it does happen. If the rubber is not complete, it won’t seal.

Put enough water in the canner to cover your jars by at least a couple of inches. Bring the water to a boil, then put in the just-filled, still-warm jars. Begin timing the processing when the water comes back to a full boil.

Obviously, the jars will be very hot when they come out of the canner. Remove them with a rubber-coated jar lifter (it looks like a large set of tongs), which you can buy where canners are sold. Place the jars either on cake cooling racks or folded towels on your kitchen counter. You’ll be rewarded with the satisfying “ping” of sealing lids as they cool. If nothing else in your life is going right, those “pings” sound mighty good. Let the jars sit for several hours before putting them away. If you should have a jar that doesn’t seal within 10-12 hours, you have two options: Put the jam in the refrigerator and start enjoying it now or reprocess the jar by removing the lid, checking it for defects, washing it, putting it back on and going through the canning sequence again.

Using powdered pectin makes jelling almost foolproof. I like the pectin for low- or no-sugar recipes, because I can control the amount of sugar. I prefer a less sweet jam that lets the fruit flavor be the star. Jams with less sugar will be softer when they set, but it’s not a big difference. You can also use Splenda in place of sugar, but I’ve never personally tried that. Be sure to get the pectin specifically for low- or no-sugar uses.

So, hang onto this recipe for next fig season.

Fig Jam

About 5 pounds fresh figs

2 cups sugar

1 (1/75-ounce) package powdered pectin for low- or no-sugar recipes

1/4 cup lemon juice

3/4 cup water

Place figs in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit 10 minutes. Drain. Remove stems from figs and chop. Mash slightly but do not puree – leave some chunks. You should get about 2 quarts chopped figs.

Measure sugar into a separate bowl. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the sugar with the pectin.

Place figs, lemon juice, water and sugar-pectin mixture in a large saucepot. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. Then add remaining sugar, return to a full boil, stirring constantly. Let boil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the mixture feels thick while stirring and comes off a clean spoon in a sheet (no thin drips). Manage the heat to maintain the boil without burning the mixture.

Remove the pot from the heat. Using a canning funnel, fill the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth and screw on the lids. Just hand-tighten the lids. Place the hot jars in the canner. process 10 minutes.

Makes about 8 half pints.

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4 Responses to “Jammin' with figs”

  • Comment from Carol Puckett

    Here’s a “killer” receipe for Fig Chutney and it’s wonderful with pork and poultry. Enven though it is sealed the shelf life is short, so use it within 3 to 6 monts. I pruned my tree to the ground at the end of the season, as a result I may have a small yield next year. If I have enough figs to share I’ll give you some to make a batch of Fig Chutney. I enjoy your articles so keep them coming. Thanks, Carol Puckett

    Fig Chutney
    • 2 1/2 pounds fresh figs (about 5 cups)
    • 1 onion finely chopped
    • 2 cups of malt vinegar
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1/2 cup chopped preserved ginger (candied – like in fruitcake)
    • 1/4 cups raisins (don’t use the golden raisins)
    • 1/2 teaspoon each mixed spice, curry power and ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon salt

    Wash stems and chop figs into small pieces.
    Place in a pan with onion and half the malt vinegar.
    Bring to the boil and simmer until pulpy.
    Add remaining malt vinegar, sugar, ginger, raisins, spices and salt.
    Stir until boiling. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
    Pour into jars and process 10 minutes in a water bath to seal.
    Yield: 6- 8 jars, 8-oz jars

  • Comment from Debbie

    That chutney sounds awesome, Carol. I just might have enough figs lurking in my freezer to try it out. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Comment from VaNC

    Hey, Debbie, we are getting ready to plant a fig tree. If you had your pick of figs to cook with, that are also sustainable in the South, which would you pick? I had a great fig tree behind my old house (well, actually it was the neighbors, I just am the only one who picked and used them). Never knew which kind it was. Made great jam though.


  • Comment from Debbie

    The most common kind of fig grown in this area is the Brown Turkey. That tree at your old house was probably that variety.

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