Fig and Rose Jam
Figs are in season right now, which means that I am in heaven. Sweet and luscious ripe figs can be found at the grocery store in flats of 12 or 20 (without having to remortgage your house for a single sweet taste), they’re showing up in certain markets, and I’ve been sneakily culling them one by one off the fig trees in my parents’ back yard.
The problem with picking fresh figs, at least for me, is that I can never tell when the blasted things are ripe. Sometimes there will be a few drops of golden syrup oozing out of them, and you would think that means that they’re ready, but…sometimes it just means that they have worms. I learned that lesson the hard way. Then again, you can tell by size, right? The big, fat figs must be ripe and the small, undernourished and gangly looking figs still have a ways left to go. Again, not always true. You can bite into a tumescent fig which is firm and fuzzy inside, or a wee tiny little ‘test’ fig the size of a ping pong ball which is honey-sweet and decadent.
My father’s trick is to check for when the figs stop sticking straight out off the branch and instead hang down limply. I will not share with you the allusion he made before chuckling mischievously as I scolded him, completely scandalized. I think “limp” is a good enough indicator without needing to build on that visualization.
This fig jam is sweet but subtly flavored with lemon and rose, favorites of the Middle East. It is also worth noting that sometimes when I put up recipes they’re large enough to give you a nice stockpile for those cold winter months (or in case of a 10 year alien invasion), but this is actually a very small batch recipe, yielding just two wee little jars. You could double the recipe easily, and it would hardly be any more work and just a little longer for simmering, but I’ll leave that up to you. My guess is that once you make this jam, you’ll wish that you had doubled up from the start. I know that I did!
Fig and Rose Jam
Fills 3 small (250 ml) jars
- 1 kg (2.2 lb) fresh figs *
- 1.5 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup distilled water
- 1 lemon (1/2 tsp zest, 2 tbsp juice)
- 2 tbsp rosewater
- pinch salt
* I used a mixture of the figs I harvested from the plants in my father’s green house, the true varieties of which we’ll never know (they’re just “black” and “white…I mean green…greenish. You know, the other ones”), and black (mission?) figs that I picked up from a fruit market. If you’re using all syrupy sweet black mission figs, you may wish to reduce the sugar. On the other hand, if you’ve got the less sweet kabota, or any other variety of figs on hand, keep the sugar as is.
Cut any tough stem ends off the figs and quarter or coarsely chop the flesh. Place the figs, sugar, water, lemon zest and just a pinch of salt into a medium pot set over moderately low heat. Stir intermittently as the sugar dissolves and figs break down because you will want to prevent any scorching.
Let the fig mixture simmer away for about an hour, stirring more frequently as it starts to thicken. When the figs are broken down and the mixture passes the “Scottish Oatmeal” test, stir in the lemon juice and rose water.
Oh, are you wondering about the Scottish Oatmeal test? Some people call it the “wrinkle” test, and there are various other euphemisms out there, but basically you take a cold plate, dollop on a teensy bit of jam and let it cool for 30 – 60 seconds. When you turn the plate at a 90º angle, the jam should droop a little bit but overall will stay put and not run or drip.
Pack the jam into clean, sterilized jars and seal with fresh lids. Heat process the jars for 10 minutes and then set them aside, not touching, for 24 hours to finish setting completely.
After that, the jam is ready for you to dive in.
Both the lemon and rose are understated in this sweet and luscious jam, which just oozes of exotic figs and sunshine.
Spread on a thin rusk with a slather of tangy homemade labneh, or some fresh farmer’s cheese, this jam is the kind of grown-up elegance that strawberries and raspberries will never hope to achieve.
No offense, Strawberry. I mean, it was cool last week when we hung out with Grand Marnier and Black Pepper, but…you’re just not really my type. I’m sorry. But…it’s not you. It’s Figs.
I’m waiting for figs to go on sale at my local grocery store, where I intend to snap them up and make another batch of this jam with a quick twitch of my tail. After all, two small jars are great for things that are special, but four small jars are better for people who are greedy. Like me.