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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The humble fig...

Behold, the humble fig. ‘Tis the season here in AZ and other parts of the country. As part of my “Know your neighbors, and what they grow” campaign, my wonderful ‘Fig Neighbor' has offered up a glorious bounty from their treasure-laden tree.

The fig is very unpretentious, not like the cherry-red shiny apple, kind of alike a lady with bright red lipstick, or the blond Rainer cherry, standing tall with its stem and shy-but beautiful blushed coat.

No—the fig has a dusty-colored purple, matte finish skin and sort of lumpy-plump little body, and sits there in its humble fashion. But, oh—the fig! It is so deserving of so much praise in taste and nutrition!
Here is how I use this seasons bounty of figs. Buy them up in large quanitites when they are on sale and make lots of things!

Fig Jam
  • 3 lbs ripe figs (stems trimmed off)
  • 1 lb sugar (by weight)
  • ½ cup water
  • Juice of two lemons

In a deep stock pot place figs, sugar, water and lemon juice. Cover and on medium high heat bring to a simmer. After about 5-minutes, smash the figs down with a wooden spoon. Continue to cook for another 10-minutes. Turn off the heat, and using an immersion (hand) blender, carefully blend the figs until a smooth jam forms (some chunks ok.) Ladle this into clean glass jars.
(Note: you can use a blender in batches, in lieu of immersion blender, but be careful, the jam is HOT).

Low Sugar Fig JamAn alternative to standard fig jam, which has a fair amount of sugar, try this one; pure fruit, enhanced by citrus, with natural honey for sweetness.
  • 20 or so fresh figs, stems removed, and cut in half
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Water
Place in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Crush figs with the back of a spoon as they heat. Liquid should begin to come out. Add zest and juice of the lemons. Add honey. If mixture is too dry, add enough water to make a simmer. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Liquid should begin to reduce and mixture should thicken slightly as figs cook. Blend with blender or hand blender, place in glass jars. Once cooled it should be a spoonable consistancy.

Dried figs (make honey-soaked figs)
Trim stems and half figs. Give them a stint overnight in your food dehydrator. Once completely cool, store in glass jars in your pantry.

As for the bounty of figs in general, here is how I enjoy them:
  • Jam on a gluten free cheese flavored cracker
  • Honey-soaked figs on yogurt
  • Turkey and mozzarella panini with fig jam or fresh sliced figs
  • Fig spread
    Mix ½ cup fig jam with 4 oz goat cheese until blended. Use as a spread on sandwiches, toast, or as a cracker spread or dip at your next party
  • Fresh: Take a bite, dip in brown sugar, take a bite—repeat.

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