Figs (from the Ficus family) are a beloved fruit in Santa Barbara and are a rare treat, since their season is short. When picked ripe, the tender skins don’t lend well to travel and so are best eaten no more than a day or two after they are picked. While dried figs are available year-round, they simply don’t compare to the flavor and texture of a fresh one. Perhaps this is why Ancient Greece had laws forbidding the export of the best quality figs.
Between the snacking birds and gifting figs to friends and neighbors, it is rare that we have enough figs. Last season we could not keep enough around to try our hand at a jam recipe, so this season we were proactive about getting out there at the early end of the fig harvest. We have discovered that figs, while delicious straight off the tree, become other worldly when cut in half and grilled skin side down and topped with a little bit of goat cheese. Many a supposed fig hater can’t resist them when grilled.
And as the fig season winds down, we saved our last round of picking for Fig-Balsamic Jam. This recipe is definitely a keeper. It produces a fragrant and complex preserve that pairs well with crackers and cheese, pork, or even slathered on a homemade pizza with prosciutto and arugula.
Fig Balsamic Jam[/caption]
Fig Balsamic Jam
1.5 lbs. of figs, washed, stems removed and roughly chopped
½ cup water
½ cup balsamic vinegar (this is a great choice)
1 ½ cups sugar
2 Tb lemon juice
1 Tb mustard seeds
1 ½ tsp. minced, fresh rosemary
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
Roughly chop the figs and add to large skillet with water, vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add remaining ingredients and simmer on medium/medium low (stirring occasionally) for about 40-45 minutes or until spoon leaves a distinct trail across the bottom of the pan. Add to clean jars or containers (with lids), let cool to room temperature and store in fridge. If longer storage is desired, canning is simple by adding jam to hot, sterilized jars and processing for 5 minutes (at a boil).
Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook (Aug. 2012).