Small-Batch Fig Jam

That seems redundant, doesn’t it?

Because if you find figs at the farmstand, they’re often upwards of $12-a-quart—or even a buck apiece for big ones. And if you grow them yourself, you likely eat as many as you can straight off the tree (or, say, with a little honey and yogurt . . . or in a salad with blue cheese . . . or wrapped in a leaf of prosciutto).

Thus far this year, the squirrels and the birds have left me about two quarts.

So, yes, figs are usually dear, and a small batch is often all that’s feasible.

Luckily, this quick recipe—which I’ve tweaked over the years—just needs a quart of fruit. As you might imagine, it’s a wonderful addition to a cheese board (complementing both creamy and hard, aged cheeses). A thin layer also transforms a grilled ham sandwich—or a small pizza with gorgonzola and prosciutto. Want a wild-card use? Spoon it into a thumbprint cookie, kolaczki, or hamantaschen.

Small-Batch Fig Jam

This version’s lightly scented with lemon and thyme. Rosemary is good, too. If you’re feeling adventurous, add a tablespoon of Cognac near the end of the cooking time. The quart of fruit yields about a pint of finished product. I loaded this batch into four 4-ounce jars.

Don’t you hate it when there’s a spoonful leftover? Yeah, me, too.
  • 1 dry quart figs (about 1 pound)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 small lemon
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tbsp Cognac, Armagnac, or other brandy (optional)

Wash and drain the figs. Lop off the stems, and chop the figs fairly finely.

I find it easiest to quarter each fig, then rock a chef’s knife for a couple passes through the whole lot. I prefer a chunkier jam, but if you like a smoother product, mince away further.

Using a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife, pull the peel from the lemon in large strips (try to get only the yellow peel, not the white pith). Put the peel pieces and the chopped figs in a non-reactive cooking pot (I use a lidded, 11-inch, high-walled skillet). Add the sugar, thyme sprigs, and the juice from the lemon. Give everything a stir, then cover the pot. Let it hang out for about an hour at room temperature.

While the fruit’s macerating, get a boiling-water canning bath going and prep your jars. If you’re a canning newby—or just need a refresher—see Marisa’s Canning 101.

After the resting fruit-sugar mixture is good and syrupy, set the pot to medium-high and, stirring frequently, bring it to a steady boil. Reduce the heat to medium, keep stirring once a minute or so, and let the pot bubble away for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture is very thick. Use a fork or tongs to carefully remove the thyme sprigs and lemon strips. If you’re augmenting with brandy, stir it through now; the mixture’s still so hot that the alcohol will cook off quickly.

Foxy ol’ Rocket Dog used to love to eat windfall figs. Man, I miss that guy.

Ladle the jam into hot jars, leaving at least 1/4-inch of headspace. Wipe the jar threads and rims, cover with lids, and loosely apply the rings. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from canner and cool completely on a folded dishtowel. Sealed jars should be good for a year when stored in a cool, dark place. If any jars fail to seal properly, stick ’em in the fridge and eat from those first.

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