If you haven’t tried fresh figs, you should. I assure you, they’re nothing like Fig Newtons (a poor excuse for a cookie, in my opinion). Come to think of it, I’m not a fan of dried figs in general, unless they’re sauteed in Mark Bittman’s Brussels sprouts recipe (dreamy!). So however you may feel about dried figs, trust me — a fresh fig is entirely its own thing. And, like many summer gems, they don’t last long. The clock is ticking, so seize the moment!
I’ve been chowing down on these beauties at work recently, and have been surprised at how many colleagues have asked what they taste like. Unfortunately, I don’t have a particularly good answer. They taste like … fresh figs. Which is to say, delicious. Sweet (sometimes, very sweet). Added bonus: they’re fun to eat, with soft, slightly chewy skins and teeny tiny seeds that pop in your mouth like poppy seeds.
I was fortunate to have regular access to these plump green gems growing up in Seattle, thanks to the tree in our neighbor’s yard. Lucky for me, I was apparently the only person in the immediate vicinity who liked the things, aside from the birds.
There are hundreds of varieties of fig, I’m told, although you’re likely to find only a handful at your local market. They’re all tasty, but none as delicious as those I plucked from my neighbor’s tree. And that’s not just nostalgia talking, by the way. After extensive Internet searching, I’ve decided those were Desert King figs. I haven’t seen that variety since leaving Seattle more than a decade ago.
But … back to the matter at hand — a grown-up PB&J! Frankly, we’re unabashed fans of the kiddie version at my house. But since a WTE challenge requires some creative thinking, that obviously won’t do. And with figs on my mind (and my counter), fig jam seemed a lovely way to bid farewell to summer.
One small problem: Jam is not in my cooking repertoire. I hate acknowledging how much refined sugar it requires. And then there’s all that sterilizing hullabaloo. Luckily, lazy me has discovered you only have to go to all that trouble if you plan to store the jam on your shelf. The wisdom of the Internet tells me there’s nothing wrong with storing homemade jam in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy it.
So, newly armed with some jam-for-dummies techniques and plenty of figs, I set to work. My dream combo is pistachio butter and fig jam, since pistachios and figs belong together in my little corner of the world. But pistachio butter ain’t easy to find, and while you can make your own …. well, as much as I love you all, there are limits. Almond butter it is!
As delicious as I consider fresh figs, this jam was amazing and super-easy to make. Paired with the almond butter? Fantastic! And with all this jam I have, I can try out all these sweet and savory treats, many of which are even more grown-up than revised PB&J.
Now, you can, too.
Easy Fig Jam
Adapted from Kiss My Spatula. In most fig jam recipes, the amount of sugar used is equal to half the weight of the fruit, making a kitchen scale helpful. I used slightly less and the jam was still quite sweet. The recipe below makes about 2 1/2 cups of jam.
20 ounces figs (I used a mixture of black mission, brown turkey, and some unidentified green ones).
9 ounces (approximately 1 1/4 cups) sugar
Long strips of zest from half a large lemon (I used a vegetable peeler)
Juice from half a lemon
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
Tiny splash of orange extract (optional)
Wash and stem the figs and chop them into small pieces. Add to a heavy-bottomed saucepan along with the sugar, zest, juice and Grand Marnier. Let it all macerate off the heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn the heat to medium high, stirring occasionally until the mixture boils. When you reach a boil, turn down the heat to simmer. Stir the fruit from time to time until you reach your preferred thickness (I cooked mine for about 40 minutes). You can use a potato masher to mush up some of the fig chunks, if you like.
When it’s cool enough, spoon into containers. Let the jars cool completely before putting the lids on. Remember — this jam is strictly for storing in the fridge and/or freezer. Do not slap a lid on the jar and put it in your cupboard, unless you use proper canning techniques.
For the sandwich, spread almond butter (MaraNatha roasted is fantastic) and jam on your favorite bread. Or skip the bread and just spoon it up!