Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to Make Fig Jam (for Gabi in South Africa)

Gabi Fischer in Namibia, South Africa wrote me last December asking if I had any experience cooking fig jam in my solar oven. After I fell out of my chair at the shock of having a fan in South Africa, I set out to find figs. Arizona should have figs I thought. Wow did I have a doosey of a time. I should have planted a fig tree. I know there are people here with them...I just don't have one. As for Gabi, from her letter, I knew she was cooking in on a wood stove or using a solar oven as her main sources of heat. I find that amazing in and of itself.

Gabi wrote,
"I use fresh figs. We always have a small harvest at the beginning of December and now the big harvest will start. As I don’t have much time to cook it this time of the year I always used to freeze the figs, already taken the skin off and later in February I cooked it on a stove which works with wood. But it is more “ lecker” ( can’t find a word in English)when the jam is made out of fresh figs. I have cooked already 2 recipes. I always use a bit less sugar than the mass of figs, it gets very sweet but holds longer. I have cooked already two big pot full of fig jam, and it works very good. it is interesting that it does not cook over neither burn (in the solar oven). At the moment I don’t have a black pot, should cook quicker then. I also thought to ask my husband to put the oven on wheels s that I always can turn it, and when it looks like rain, which is not very often in Namibia, I can drive it into a room. We have the small one, is not too heavy but If I have to protect it from the rain I will have to carry it far.
Gabi Fisher,
Nazimbo Camping Safaris"

Well. I finally found figs. Nine months later the fruit was finally in my hand. I searched for two reasons. One, I was actually very sympathetic to Gabi's plight. Second, I was bugged that I had not had any experience with fig jam in my solar oven. Isn't that funny? I get so anxious to try new things. This was something new to me and I wanted to make it work. Now we have it!

Thank you California Black Fig farmers who distribute through Trader Joe's in Arizona. I love you.

Those who have never seen a fresh fig before, here it is.
Trader Joe's, I apologize I squealed in your store. I know it didn't make any sense to anyone looking at me...but I was giddy. I'm sure your produce stocker almost wet his pants. It must have been a scary sight.
Figs are amazing. They all have a skin. The black variety look like this when the stem is cut off.

The fruit is actually quite different to look at as well. The flavor is much like a bland kiwi.
For the jam you will need:
2 lb black figs (4 cups) washed and chopped (blanch and remove skin if desired)
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
7 cups sugar
1/4 cup Ultra Gel starch or 1/2 cup flour (Americans can use 1 box pectin)
optional: 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
dash of ground nutmeg and cardamon

Heat the figs and lemon juice in your solar oven (or stove) until soft, about 10 minutes stove top or 15 minutes solar.

Mash or run through a blender. I used a blender or a food mill.

If you peeled the figs the blending step isn't necessary. You can just mash the fruit. Make sure you mash it very well, as I've noticed it helps the jam hold thick better when the fruit is very well mashed. I like keeping the skin. It makes the jam very red colored and I like the flavor.

Return the fruit puree to the pot. Add the sugar and jell. I also add 1 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg and ground cardamon. Simmer for 20 minutes until thick. The starch will help the jam to hold better.
Those using pectin, bring mixture to a boil. When sugar is dissolved, add the pectin and cook one more minute.
Transfer hot jam to very clean and sterilized canning jars with new lids. Put canning jars in a hot water bath canner on the stove making sure the water is well over the lids. Bring water to a boil. Cook 10 minutes. Remove from the water bath and put on a clean towel. Do not disturb jars for 12 hours. This will ensure a good seal. Label and use within a year.
There you go Gabi. I know you probably have it all figured out by now, but I just want to say thank you for inspiring a chef half way around the world. If I ever make it to South Africa, I promise to look for you. Maybe we can cook jam together.
The rest of you...there you go. Make some jam.


Mama Peck said...

Ok, I have to try this one! The only 'figgy' thing I have ever eaten is Fig Newtons. Wouldn't Figgy Jam make a fun Christmas gift? While you're on a fig kick, how about a figgy pudding? Rats, now I'll be singing "bring us a figgy pudding, oh, bring us a figgy pudding.." all day. LOL (hmmm.. wonder if Trader Joe's still has figs?)

Lynn said...

I love figs. I also love Trader Joes. Alas, we do not have any in Colorado. When I lived in San Diego, that was a weekly trip. My Granddaughter always called it Trader Jones. That has stuck,and in our family it will always be Trader Jones.
When I was growing up, my grandfather had 3 big fig trees. There is nothing like picking the fig right from the tree and eating them. Oh, I miss those days.

Anonymous said...

Tess, in my corner of the world, it seems that fresh figs don't exist. Dried Calamyra figs are available locally. How would you adapt your recipe utilizing dried fruits in jam making?-Carol

Chef Tess said...

Carol, I make the fig jam with dried figs in the post on how to make homemade fig bars. I'll go ahead an add the tag to it, but here's the link: