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We’ve been overrun with figs this year in the Willamette Valley, where the somewhat inappropriately named ‘Desert King’ variety does very well as long as it’s planted in southern exposure.  His majesty is a green-skinned, pink-fleshed variety that produces medium-sized figs.

And they clean up quite nicely!  Here they are in their Sunday finery with speck and aged balsamic.

As the Master Food Preservers gear up for our winter holiday bazaar, we’re all making jam and pickles, and I thought I’d pay forward the generosity of my neighbors to make preserves out of their extra figs.  I’ve done three batches of lavender fig preserves using my own lavender.  It’s an easy recipe without pectin, but you really do need to boil the heck out of it to achieve a thick consistency.

This recipe doesn’t remove the skins, which can be tough, but if you cut the pieces small enough, it shouldn’t be a problem.  My first batch had quartered figs, and I found the pieces too large for spreading.

Another potential issue is thickening. I never mind it if I don’t have a thick jam, since I can always use a looser set for yogurt or sauces or even with my morning bread, French-style.  But you can get a very dense gel if you just boil it down long enough.  It’s up to you.  Note that you’ll get less product the longer you boil and concentrate the preserve.  One batch made 3 half-pints, another 6.

It’s always instructive to experiment with fruit in all parts of the season to get a sense of how it changes and develops in flavor.  The photo isn’t the best, but you can certainly see that the jar on the right was a late-season concoction — indeed, I think it was made from the last of the figs from the tree.  I’m pretty sure the presence of seeds indicates the tiny fig wasp was pollinating the fruit, and the birds and bugs pretty much had a field day on many of the overripe figs still hanging from the tree.

The figs themselves went from dark, vivid pink early in the season to a faded mauve, and they are now much sweeter.  The cavities late in the season don’t look like they did in the early season (cf. the first photo, the first fig I picked in mid-August).  There is little white flesh around the pink.  So late-season preserves are more concentrated and rather more browny-mauve than the earlier, prettier, reddish-brown.

I rather like the way the seeds look.  Don’t you?  And they’ll add a nice crunch to the proceedings.

Lavender Fig Preserves

Makes 3 to 6 half-pints

  • 2 lbs. chopped fresh figs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Combine ingredients and let sit for 30 minutes.  Boil down until preserve thickens (try 30 minutes — I had a very firm set at 45 minutes but only produced 3 half-pints), stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot.

Wash your jars, rings, and lids, and heat the lids according to the package instructions.  Spoon the hot preserve into jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space.  Wipe rims of jars and adjust lids and rings.  Process in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes.

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