Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fresh Figs – home grown

When we moved to our current house, years ago, a friend who lived close by had a large fig tree. He gave us a small cutting from his tree and we planted it near the house. It has grown quite well, without any kind of fertilizer or chemical spray. It has been giving us a large amount of figs.

Lately, at the end of June, we get a small crop of very large figs, as large as pears as you can see below – while the rest of the figs on the tree are tiny and green and ripen in mid August.

There are many varieties of figs – ours is called Brown Turkey. Down the road a neighbor has the dark red variety and another neighbor has the small, very sweet, variety called Celeste. Below is a vintage postcard showing a basket of fruit with the dark red figs. This could be the Poona variety or the Italian variety called Black Ischia.

The genus of the fig is Ficus (latin) with about 850 species that include not only figs but also woody trees, shrubs, vines, etc. It is believed to be indigenous to eastern Asia and is thousands of years old. Remnants of figs have been found in excavation of sites dating from 5,000 B.C. Figs come from the Ficus Maraceae species. Another specie is the Opuntia Ficus Indica which is a sort of cactus with a fruit called prickly pear, and yet another specie is Ficus Religiosa . This is an Indian tree (also called Bodhi Tree) of great size and longevity. It is considered sacred by Buddhists and planted close to many temples as it is the tree under which Gautama is said to have received the heavenly light and became Buddha.

Le Bouddha, painted by Odilon Redon, French, Symbolist, 1840-1916 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris)

Growing up in France I ate many figs in summer, fresh and sometimes with goat cheese.

Figs and Cheese, painted by Grace Mehan de Vito, American, contemporary

Since our fig tree produced so much fruit I started to make fig jams. I usually make jam with figs only but also some fig jams I add other fruits - those I prefer to mix are mangos, peaches, or cherimoyas. The cherimoya is a tropical fruit native to the Andean highland valleys of Ecuador and Peru – it is very sweet with a sherbet like texture and mixes well with figs.

Making fig jam is not difficult and it does not take too long. Last summer I took pictures while making the jam so I could show the process on my blog. I wanted to especially show it to one of my blogging friends, Paty from Florianopolis in Brazil. She has a fig tree in her yard but has not made jam from it. Her two blogs are very pretty and interesting – please visit them (one is in Portuguese but she has a translation button on the side) - they are entitled: I Love Florianopolis and Morada de Venus. Here is the process I go through to make the jam. First gather the figs from the tree. It is nice if you have access to a tall person because the tree is quite high – in this case my husband is the gatherer.

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them

As you can see above my Brown Turkey figs are in the small yellow bowl and the figs in the basket are from the Celeste variety. This past September was the 4th time this year I made my jam. I supplemented my figs with the Celeste from Lake Laura Farm down the road (see my post on Lake Laura here.) I gather all the tools I’ll need. The jars, a long wooden spoon, a sharp knife, a package of pectin, a measuring cup, a small plate with a teaspoon, a block of paraffin, a ladle, a jar funnel, clean towel, a pair of tongs and assorted pots.

We do not spray the figs against insects as we do not get any – just the birds like to eat the ripe fruits. For one recipe of fig jam you need:

5 cups of fruit, cut in little pieces (about 3 or 4 pounds of fruit)
½ cup of fresh lemon juice
1 box of pectin
1 tsp of butter
7 cups of sugar

This will yield about 8 or 9 ½ pint jars (1/2 pint = 8 oz which is 2 cups.) I use paraffin to seal the jam as I do not have a canner. I use extreme caution to have everything super clean and wash my hands often. Place the jars in a large pan with water to cover them and warm the water until it boils. Keep it boiling for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down but keep the jars very warm.

Measure the sugar in a large bowl, so it will be ready when the time comes. I place a small piece of wax paper on the counter top to keep the counter clean. Break a large piece of paraffin and place it in a can and then in a small saucepan with some water in the bottom, about 2 inches high. Keep the saucepan warm enough to keep the paraffin liquid and make sure there is always water in the bottom of the pan. (Remember that paraffin is flammable so don’t overheat it or let the pan dry!)

Press the lemon to obtain ½ cup of juice.

Gently wash the figs and cut the stems and the bottom of the figs, then chop the fruit in little pieces. Do not peel them unless a spot is discolored and peel that spot only.

Place the cut up figs (or mixture of fig and other fruits) in a large and heavy pot. Add butter (to avoid too much foaming) the lemon juice and the powdered pectin.

Place heat under the pot and turn the fig mixture with a wooden spoon until the mixture is very hot.

Turn heat to high and keep stirring the fig mix until it reaches a full boil. When it has reached a full boil which cannot be stopped by stirring, add the sugar.

Keep stirring constantly until the mixture comes back to a rolling boil then stir for 1 minute while it boils (have a watch or clock ready so you can time this.) After a minute turn off the heat on the stove and move the pot away. Let the mixture cool for about 4 minutes and stir with spoon once in a while. Skim a little bit of the foam off the top of the mixture with a small spoon and place on a plate. Keep stirring the fig mixture off and on.

While the mixture is cooling off a bit remove jars from the hot water with tongs so as not to burn your fingers and place upside down on a clean towel on the kitchen counter. Return the pot to the stove or counter if you have the space. Take a jar close to the pot and place the jar funnel on it. With a ladle fill the jar to within 1/2 inch of the top and keep filling jars this way until you have used all the fig mixture.

Wipe any spilled jam off the outsides of jars. Seal by pouring the melted paraffin wax on the jam. Make wax layer about 1/8 inch thick and do not move jars until paraffin has hardened. Wax should be touching all edges of jar and be even. If there are air bubbles in wax - prick them with toothpick to make better seal. I usually let the jars sit about 1 or 2 hours until I see the thin white film of paraffin and then I pour another 1/8 inch on the jar again making sure that the edges are well covered and sealed. Then I leave the jars to cool off overnight before I place tops on them. If a jar was half filled I keep that one to eat right away.

Some say that sealing with paraffin is not recommended because the wax may separate from the side of the jars allowing air to touch the jam and mold is possible. I have been making jam this way for about 20 years and never had a problem or been sick from my jam. Should a little bit of mold come on the top of the jar after a while I just wipe it off as it is just on the surface and does not hurt the content. But you can always use a canner. We like to eat our homemade jam on toasts or English muffin for breakfast with a bowl of café au lait (for my husband) or black coffee made with expresso beans for me. Store jam in refrigerator after opening.

Remember to label the jam with the year and store away. Place pretty labels on them when giving them as gifts. I do not keep the jams more than 2 or 3 years – usually they are gone by that time or given away. If not, I toss them out and replace them with fresh ones. This year I made 4 or 5 batches of fig jam, some spiced apricot jam, blueberry jam, strawberry and rhubarb jam until I cannot place anymore jars in my cupboards. We love fruit either fresh or in homemade jams.

This is not complicated and it tastes very good. Enjoy.


Pêssegos, peras, laranjas,
morangos, cerejas, figos,
maçãs, melão, melancia,
ó música de meus sentidos,
pura delícia da língua;
deixai-me agora falar
do fruto que me fascina,
pelo sabor, pela cor,
pelo aroma das sílabas:
tangerina, tangerina.
-Eugénio de Andrade, Portuguese 1923-2005

English translation:


Peaches, pears, oranges,
strawberries, cherries, figs,
apples, melon, honey dew,
oh, music of my senses,
pure pleasure of the tongue;
let me speak now
of fruit that fascinate,
with the flavour, with the hues,
with the fragrance of their syllables:
oh tangerine, oh tangerine.
Eugénio de Andrade, Portuguese 1923-2005

Still Life with Figs, painting by Luis Melendez, Spanish 1715-1780


""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Hello Vagabonde :o) !!!! ***

Ce matin grâce à ton blog je voyage au pays de la figue ! MERCI ! :o)

Les figues de ton jardin sont magnifiques et c'est génial de disposer ainsi d'un fruit aussi bon directement chez soi ! :o)
La confiture doit être délicieuse ! huuummmmmm ! :o)
Tu as raison, la figue fraiche et le fromage de chèvre ... c'est EXTRA !:o)
La confiture de figues se marie bien aussi avec le foie gras !

Tes photos et illustrations sont chouette ! :o)

*** GROS BISOUS et bonne continuation à toi Vagabonde :o) !!! ***

Paty said...

Hi Vagabonde! I´m so honored that you remembered what i told about my fig tree and that you mentioned my blogs in your post. Thanks so much, you are very very kind!
This is a lovely post. It shows the beauty of life´s little things, if everyone in the world could just live in peace with nature we´d all be happier. I love jams too, once I tried to do strawberry jam, it was good but i should practice more. I feel neglecting my fig tree right now, because it´s giving a lot of figs and I don´t have time to catch them before the birds or the insects (ants, bees, fruit flies...we have a lot of them unfortunately), when I come home from work i feel sad about those insects that have destroyed the fruits. But i´ll try some strategy to avoid them and i´ll try to follow your recipe about the fig jam.
Thank you so much again for your post, when i´ll be able to try this recipe be sure you´re gonna be the first one to know.

Vipul said...

Hey dude, very nice of you. Now that you have shown the ways to grow fresh figs, people will like to have some for themselves. I myself will start growing few.

Louis la Vache said...

Wow! What an interesting post! «Louis» likes figs, so this was particularly enjoyable - and culinary history, as it were! «Louis» had no idea the Prickly Pear is part of the fig family.

Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...

What an amazing post! A real tutorial on figs....with a recipe as well. Thank you! I'm so jealous - love fresh figs.

DJan said...

There is something about your posts that leave me feeling the world is a better place. I have never made jams, but we don't eat them or buy them because of the sugar. I am not a fan of sweets, and my husband is too much of a fan.

The story was so well documented and illustrated, VB, as usual. Thank you for the time you take to make these so perfect.

Jinksy said...

A delight to the eyes, and an imaginary delight to the palate at the same time! Thanks for this tasty post.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, my, what a wonderful post -- full of good information and pretty pictures! I am so envious of your fig tree. We had a fig tree that did pretty well, as long as the winters weren't too cold. But we last it during some construction. I'm going to have to try again. We all love fresh figs with prosciutto. And fig preserves with cheese and fig jam woth a little orange peel in it . . .

Virginia said...

Belle photos! I saw your comment on Louis' blog today. I see we are neighbors. (I'm in B'ham AL). Your photos are lovely and what an interesting post you've made.

I"m a francophile and also have a Paris blog. Where did you live in France?

PS I love figs and haven't had one in YEARS!

Darlene said...

You do write such interesting posts and spend so much time composing them. Even though I will never make fig jam, it was very interesting reading about it and about the history of figs.

Have you ever made figgy pudding? ;-)

claude said...

Post joliment illustré comme d'habitude. C'est ton mari qui a un beau tee shirt comme ça ?
C'est une confiture qui plairait à mon Chéri bien qu'il en mange presque jamais, pais à moi, Non, non !
J'aime bien le feuillage du figuier mais pas son fruit. Moi je suis plutôt confiture de tomates vertes et de bananes.

Elaine said...

I enjoyed learning more about figs. I have never lived anywhere that figs grow, so they seem to me to be an exotic fruit. In Interior Alaska we are very limited on fruit trees that will grow here. A few apple trees will grow, mostly crabapple, but a few hardy small varieties. Chokecherry trees do well, and there are several berries that do well, wild raspberries and blueberries, bog and high bush cranberries, and wild strawberries. Domestic raspberries and strawberries also do good. I occasionally make jame, but haven't done it in a while.

Vagabonde said...

Nancy – Merci pour ta visite et tes gentilles remarques. Je viens de voir un crépuscule extraordinaire sur ton blog. Je vais y retourner, mais tu es très prolifique alors j’ai du retard, mais je lis tous tes posts, même en retard.

Vagabonde said...

Paty – I hope that my post will inspire you to make fig jam, but if not, I hope you can eat them fresh anyway. Will you take a picture of them sometimes so I can see what variety you have on your tree?

Vagabonde said...

Louis, Bonnie, DJan, Jinsky, Vicki Lane and Darlene – Thank you for leaving a comment. It gives me more incentive to write posts when I know that my blogging friends enjoy reading them. I appreciate your visits a lot.

Vagabonde said...

Virginia – Welcome back. You came and left a message last August on my post on Kangaroos. I lived in the 9th arrondissement of Paris (stretching from the Opera to the bottom of the Sacré Coeur.) Am pleased you stopped by again.

Vagabonde said...

Claude – dis donc je n’ai jamais mangé de la confiture de tomates vertes – et ici ils on vendent car cela se mange frit – la cuisine du sud est surtout de la fritture. Et bien je vais essayer d’en faire l’été prochain. Tu manges cela comment – avec quoi?

Vagabonde said...

Elaine – your Alaska blueberries are tasty. Last summer, when we were either in Alaska or Yukon, I don’t remember which, I tasted some of your blueberries and liked them a lot. I usually don’t buy jams or jellies since I make so much but I did buy some spruce tip jelly in Ketchikan.

Marguerite said...

What a beautiful bounty of figs! I love the Celeste figs, too, but depend on my dear cousin for fig jams and preserves. Your cupboards are amazing! This was a delightful post and I enjoyed it so much! Great demonstration, pics, painting, and poem, mon amie! Cheers!

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Bonjour Vagabonde ! :o) je viens te souhaiter une bonne fin de semaine e! :o) BISES AMICALES ! :o) ***

Pondside said...

What an interesting post! Until we moved to the coast I'd never seen a fig tree growing outside of a conservatory. I'd like to plant a fig tree, now that we have a fence to keep the deer out - they like figs too! Something that we do have a lot is is Salal - this year I'll try to make some Salal berry jam.

lorilaire said...

J'adore les figues et surtout en tarte tatin, j'ai une bonne recette si tu étais intéressée, j'ai hâte à la saison des figues pour en faire des natures-mortes, tu as de la chance d'avoir un si beau figuier !
Dommage que tu habites si loin, j'aurais pris des photos de tes fruits pour mes modèles!

Roger Gauthier said...

Ouais, mais Vagabonde, les figues j'y connais que dalle ! Au début je pensais que c'était des tomates, mais comme c'était pas bleu j'ai déchanté... :-)

TRÈS intéressant. J'ai appris quelque chose, même si je sais pas quoi faire avec !

Roger G.

Lifecruiser Travel Blog said...

That is an awesome figs post, soooo much better than mine! So informative and well done, with the step for step instructions how to make the jam.

Such a pity me and hubby doesn't eat anything that contains sugar any more, but if you bring a jar to Oslo in August, we will make an exception :-)

Now I totally understand why TorAa wanted me to go to your blog the other week - sadly I didn't, too busy, which I regret now!

I LOVE your blog!!!! Marvelous posts, the few ones I've read so far - I'll come back for more, for sure!

I'm glad that we're gonna meet in Oslo :-)

maría cecilia said...

Dear, how nice to see you have your own figs!!!! I just love them and now is the time for them here in Chile. I have two trees and they are not as big as yours, my god, yours are fab!!!!!! Fig trees here give fruits two times a year, and they are called Higos and Brevas, higos are black and brevas are green ones.
And about chirimoyas, in the north part of Chile there`s a lot of chirimoyas production!! most of the time we prepare "chirimoya alegre", which is cutted chirimoyas with orange juice and some sugar, then you put them in the refrigerator and eat it very cold, it is delicious!!!!!
Muchos cariños,
Maria Cecilia

Friko said...

a lovely post.
There you are, there are compensations for where you live, plentiful fruit!
I also make jam, but nothing as exotic as you, just ordinary local fruit jams, like plums and strawberries and gooseberries.

I shall be preserving clementines in French Brandy this weekend, to eat next Christmas.

DianeCA said...

Excellent photography!! I recently just learned to appreciate fresh figs. A friend from Morocco introduced me to them, before I had only eaten dried figs. Not the same at all. Amazing photographs! I envy you access to all that lovely fresh fruit. Here it is winter so everything is imported...not the same!

Ruth said...

Ahhhhh. What a beautiful collection of words, images and fruits. Figs never fail to connect me to something ancient and timeless inside. The paintings you chose caught that for me, sooo lovely. We had a fig tree outside our apartment building in Istanbul, it was a chance for the kids to eat a fresh fig. The ones we get in the store, shipped from California or overseas, are tasteless, sadly. I wish we could grow a fig tree here in the North. Don would love to make jam (I am his helper, pouring through the funnel into the jars - I am good at not getting any on the jar lips). We have pears and apples, blackberries, black raspberries, golden raspberries, strawberries (new this season), and we love to preserve them this way. It's good added to yogurt.

Reader Wil said...

Hi Vagabonde! What a great and informative post! You must be a very good cook and you know a lot about biology. I didn't know that there were so many species of figs.
Your photos are fabulous!
Have a great day!
How wonderful that you met Charles Aznavour! When I was in my twenties I always bought grammophone records of French chansoniers.

marshallbausson said...

merci de ta réponse!! dommage pour les photos,!!! mais va a nouveau qui sait en tout cas mon blog marche bien , pas de soucis de ce coté là!!!! je te souhaite un bon dimnache!!marcela de patagonia

Ratty said...

I think it's a little bit strange, but I think this might be the first time I've ever really seen a fig. I keep trying to think of seeing them any other time, but I can't remember. So I guess this is a first for me. I'm glad it is such a thorough lesson in figs.

Ginnie said...

I had no clue you could grow figs in Atlanta, Vagabonde! Oh my...the things I learn now that I'm gone. Our neighbors in Pasadena had a fig tree and that's when I first expericed fresh figs back when my kids were little. Do you ever dry/dehydrate them? I bet that would be great, too. Yummy, yummy. And bravo!

kyh said...

I've never tasted figs before. Doubt I've seen them here before. But they look good! Oh my, you're making me hungry! ;)

BJM said...

Yum, yum!

Jenn Jilks said...

Merveileux - from cutting to conserved food. WOW!

Nate @ House of Annie said...

I love figs! We used to grow the Black Mission variety in our yard in California. They were so sweet and delicious. Thanks for the step by step tutorial on making fig jam.

Since you are using homegrown ingredients, would you like to enter this post in our Grow Your Own roundup this month? Full Details at

Putz said...

for Your WONDERFUL wonderful post i leave you xoxoxxxoooxoxo...i went to jinksys and saw that is what you appreciate, so onCe again X O X O XXX OOO XX OO

Vagabonde said...

Marguerite, Reader Will, Ratty, kye, BJM, Jenn Jilks - I am pleased you came to take a look at my figs. I wish we could meet and I would give a jar of fig jam to each of you – maybe we can have a blog meeting some day. Thanks for your comments.

Pondsite – I have never heard of salal so I checked it on Google. It is an effective appetite suppressant they say among other things. I wonder if I can grow it here, which would be something useful. Thanks for the visit.

Lorilaire – oui j’aimerai bien la recette de la tarte tatin. Je pourrai photographier les figues cet été pour toi, dis-moi quel genre de photos tu voudrais.

Life Cruiser Travel Blog, Diane CA, House of Annie and Putz – welcome to my blog. I am always pleased to read comments from blogging friends around the United States and around the world. I hope you will come back.

Marcela – bienvenue sur mon blog. Je suis retournée voir ton blog, L’Atelier du Coteau, et cette foi-ci j’ai pu voir tes jolies photos. Merci de ta visite.

Maria Cecilia – Thank you for the tip on cherimoya. We can find them here in the market sometimes. I’ll try to eat them the way you describe.

Friko – I love gooseberry jam but it is not a berry we find here and we do not find the jelly either. If and when I come to England I’ll bring some fig jam and see if you will trade some of your gooseberry jam for them.

Ruth – when we live near Philadelphia the owners of the house who were from Italy had a fig tree. In winter they would cover the branches as for a mummy. The tree survived well, but your winter might be colder than those in Pennsylvania.

Ginnie – I do not dehydrate my figs because I only have one tree and we either eat them all or I make jam from them, so we don’t have enough. But I like dried figs as in the cookie fig Newton.

PeterParis said...

Difficult (impossible) to make a more complete post on figs!
Makes me sersiously wish it was soon summer and that I could taste some fresh ones in Porvence!

lunarossa said...

Ciao bella! Adoro i fichi ma qui in Inghilterra sono molto rari. I sometimes find them but they are small, tasteless and very very expensive. I've learnt eating them warm with goat cheese or brie and a honey sauce in Languedoc where, as you know, they are aboundant and lovely! Thanks for the jam recipe and the lovely poem. Ciao. A.

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Chère Vagabonde ! Merci pour ton message sur mon blog, ça m'a fait plaisir :o)!!!! C'est une jolie histoire celle que tu me racontes ... ce monsieur qui tout jeune t'avait appris à faire du vélo et qui s'en ait rappelé bien des années après !!! :o)

Tu as raison, c'est vrai que lorsque l'on regarde la qualité des photos que l'on prenait avant ça surprend dans un premier temps ... il existe maintenant des appareils si perfectionnés ! Enfin, ça reste quand même nos photos et elles sont porteuses de tant de souvenirs ! Tu pourras peut-être publier quand même quelques images du Sénégal ! :o)

Merci à toi ! BISES et bon mardi Vagabonde ! :o) ***

TorAa said...

What a great and very interesting and informative post you here present. And excellent photos.

Fresh figs are not common in Norway. Only some well assortet shops do have them.

Fig and cherimoya jam sounds very yummy. We were first time served cherimoya at breakfast in Chile many years ago. Every time I find them in a shop here (that's very rare) I buy and eat them fresh.

Thanks for sharing

Putz said...

FOR HAVING AN AWARD FREE BLOG, YOU CERTAINLY TAKE AWARD WINNING PICtURES, AND SO ORGANIZED, I THINK I COULD HOT PACK PLUMS ON JUST YOUR PICTURES and not need any instructions....what europian country are you from origannlly you georgia peaach also???????i lived in france 4 years and england 6 years, and a minister for two of those years

Putz said...

i suspect you are french

Putz said...

oh oh, i forgot to mention the places i lived, etain, nancy, north of paris, bromsgrove, birmingham, brussells, luxemborg, berchasgarden, tule, frankfurt, now in utar

dutchbaby said...

We have a 50-year-old fig tree in our back yard. It bears gorgeous figs that are bright green on the outside and deep purple on the inside. I have no idea what variety they are; I wish I knew. It's a late bloomer - from September on. The curious thing is that only a few figs ripen at a time, so it would be difficult to reserve enough to make jam. I love making appetizers with our figs by stuffing them with a soft cheese, like chevre or brie, and then wrapping it with prosciutto before I place them under the broiler. Sometimes I place a half walnut inside the fig. The flavor and texture combinations of the crispy edges of the prosciutto, the creamy melted cheese, with the soft fig flesh, and the natural juices that ooze out during broiling is divine.

Beautiful, complete post. I love, love the contemporary still life of the figs and cheese.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...