It’s fig season in Australia, and I’ve noticed some succulent and expensive specimens in the shops. Five years ago I was living on Australia’s far West Coast in Perth, and had the luxury of growing my own. Here’s a walk down memory lane:
“The fig tree in my garden has stopped fruiting. All its proud, handsome leaves, once erect and filled with prana, life force, are now curling, loosening their grip on the branches, yellowing and falling to the ground, all perfectly aligned to mother earth’s natural rhythms.
But, as is the selfless quality of a fig tree, while in season it gave bountifully of its fruits, without asking anything in return.
My tree had been fruiting steadily for the last few months. I would study it daily, and before the birds and ants took their fill, I would pluck just a few of the best, most plump succulent fruits; the ones so ripe that thick red syrup would ooze from them in the heat of the day. I ate a few, but soon made an executive decision to freeze the fruits when perfectly ripe, rather than eat them, and make jam when my stash was large enough.
Yesterday I spent a joyful few hours making fig jam. I removed the figs from the freezer, laid them out to thaw, and cut them in half.
I opened my trusty edition of Cooking with Kurma ( yes, I follow my own recipes), and measured all the ingredients carefully. Jam-making is an art not to be taken lightly. It is a favourite pastime of mine, and I already knew that this recipe worked well. I quadrupled the recipe.
Fresh Fig Conserve
Soft, sweet and pulpy, figs occupy a high position amongst fruits. The ripe fresh fruit is juicy, wholesome and delicious. Figs are also a restorative food that help in quick recovery after prolonged illness. For best results, select figs for this delectable conserve that are all fully mature but not overripe and without rupture or blemish.
1kg fresh ripe figs,
4 scant cups sugar,
1/3 cup lemon juice, about 2 large lemons,
2 teaspoons packed lemon zest,
2 tablespoons water, if required.
Wash the figs and cut off their tips. If the figs are small, cut them in half; if they are large, cut them in quarters.
Spread the sugar on a tray and heat it in a pre-heated hot oven, taking care not to burn it.
Place the figs in a 5-litre/quart saucepan along with the lemon zest and lemon juice over moderate heat. Bring them to the boil and cook them for about 10 minutes, or until they soften and the syrup darkens to a rich red colour. Do not stir them, and do not allow the figs to break up. You may need to add a little water.
Remove the sugar from the oven, and gently stir it into the figs, being careful not to rupture them. When the sugar has dissolved, bring the mixture to a rapid boil and, without stirring, cook for another 10 minutes, or until the setting point is reached. Carefully ladle the conserve into sterilised jars.
Note: Because my figs had been frozen then thawed, they gave off a lot of syrup, so I added 50 grams of pectin, a natural jam setting agent, at the time I added the sugar. The result was spectacular. Four kilograms of figs made 16 jars of jam. I’ll be handing out quite a few to my friends.” (Kurma April 2006)