The figs are all ripening and they are plentiful at the curb market as well. I thoroughly enjoyed canning peaches and figs last year and my “go to” book is called Canning for a New Generation. I like it for a bunch of reasons. The author hardly ever uses pectin in her recipes—too often, recipes that use pectin favor gelling over flavor. The author’s solution is to make the most of natural pectin found in things like the cores of green apples; many of her recipes call for coring apples, collecting those cores in cheese cloth and allowing them to cook along with the fruit you’re going to can. She also uses less sugar in her recipes. It takes more patience–in order to get jam that’s thick enough to spread, you have to cook the fruit longer over lower heat. But the flavor is intense and true to the fruit in ways I really appreciate
Last year, one of my favorite recipes was for a roasted fig and lemon jam. I made several batches and looked forward to doing the same this year. When it became clear our fig tree was going to have a good crop, I was even more delighted. Now that I am a lot more confident about canning, I realized I could try to figure out some more about jams and preserves on my own—“yes, and”—a fundamental of improvisation. My herbs have done well this year too and I have particularly enjoyed the lavender. The kind I’m growing (Lavendula vera) is one of the varieties considered best for culinary uses and I kept thinking lavender and figs should go well together. The problem is that the flower pods are a bit grassy and tough and you have to be careful because the flavor can be really strong.
After some experimenting, I finally got it right. The recipe I use calls for ½ c of sugar per pound of figs and similarly, 1/3 c of water per pound. To make the preserve, you slice a lemon very, very thinly, and quarter the slices. Then you put the quartered lemon slices in a layer on a roasting pan. The figs go on top, and on top of them goes the sugar followed by the water. My variation on the theme was this: I combined the sugar, water and 2 teaspoons of lavender to make a lavender simple syrup infusion. I let the syrup sit for a couple of hours to really absorb the lavender scent. When it was time to roast the figs, the syrup was wonderfully fragrant.
Before you process the preserves in boiling water for 10 minutes,
You jar them-it’s a bit messy process because speed is important
When I pull them out of the boiling water, I hold my breath waiting for a little “pop” sound as the lids are sealed. If that pop doesn’t happen, the seal hasn’t formed and you either refrigerate that can or process the jam again. I have to allow the sealed jars to sit for 12 hours. This morning, I put up 6 half-pints of roasted fig-lavender preserves in my pantry. I will probably get to make two more batches this fig season.
Later this week, it’s time to can peach-lemon thyme jam too.