I could probably fill up most of my September and October blog posts documenting my manic effort to make the most of the autumn fruit growing just outside my cottage and around the farm. But since I am still new to this and have varying levels of success, I will chose to focus on the highlights here. First and foremost, I think of September as FIG MONTH (even though you could equally argue that it’s apple, pear, blackberry or quince month). I eat figs just about every single day, mostly by choice, but there is a certain urgency to it as well. Whether still on the tree or just picked, figs are only really good for one day. You pick them a day early and the seeds are too crunchy, or a day late and the whole thing is mushy and likely half-eaten by a wasp. We just have one tree in our garden and I thank god for that because it supplies more figs than I can eat or preserve for a full six weeks each year.
The first year we lived here I ate myself silly having fresh figs for breakfast, lunch and even dinner. Last year I felt in danger of growing sick of them so I made a tart and a galette. The tart was better. Despite making the required almond past by hand for the galette, I ruined it by using frozen pastry. Shame on me. This year I decided I would try out fellow fashion ex-pat Kevin West’s recipe for Fig Jam from his wonderful book, “Saving the Season.” He offers many variations and additions, but I thought for my first time I would just make the simplest version. Here’s the recipe:
Yields about 1.5 pints
Ingredients: 3 pounds just-ripe figs, 2 cups sugar, 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Trim the figs: cut off the stem, quarter them, and then cut the quarters cross wise.
Combine the fruit, sugar and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Cover with a tea towel and set aside to macerate for a few hours or overnight.
Pour the mixture in a preserving pan, and rapidly bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, reduce over high heat until thickened almost to the gel point, about 6 to 8 minutes after the boil. Lower the heat to medium. Continue reducing to gel point, another 2 to 3 minutes, while stirring constantly.
Ladle the hot jam into prepared ½ pint jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Seal, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
My jam was a success. I’m just getting to the point where I don’t use a thermometer anymore – I just spoon a certain amount onto a small side plate and run my finger through it to see if it stays separated. I am starting to be able to tell when the consistency of the mixture has reached the right amount of heat and reduction. I consider this a great accomplishment. That said, I had no idea what to do with fig jam once I’d made it. Having it on toast didn’t appeal to me much, so the following morning I heaped a spoonful of it into my oatmeal (or porridge for all you English people). LOVED it!