Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Recipe: Low-Sugar Fig Jam

I can remember summer mornings at my grandparent's house on North Rhett (North Charleston) climbing a tree, reaching high, high, high up, and grasping a small, brown, pear-shaped fruit from the tree. I loved getting figs at their house. A few years later, my dad carried on the tradition of planting a fig tree in his garden, and I would spend summers climbing that tree and filling up on this tiny treasure. And now, in my own yard, I have planted a fig tree in hopes of carrying on the tradition for my own children. Not only do they provide little moment of joy in eating its fruit, but they can also make great climbing trees for my kids. My dad heard a rumor that if you plant a tree on the Southeast side of a brick building, it will make your fig tree HUGE (here's a link I found that suggests the same thing). So my dad planted a tree for kicks on the Southeast side of his brick home, and now, 3 years later, the tree is over 2 stories tall! So guess where my fig tree is planted? 

Anyway, this year provided my dad's HUGE fig tree with an abundance of figs. If you know anything about figs, once they start to ripen, you really only have a few days to pick them and then eat them before they turn bad. So, I grabbed my HALF-GALLON mason jar and made my way to my parents' house to pick me some figs. I ended up with about 2 gallons (we filled the jar twice and one gallon-size zip-closed bag). That is a ton of figs! So what do you do with all those figs? Make jam! 

My grandmother had the best jam. I later found out that it was actually my great-grandmother's recipe (her name was Tincy, isn't that a great name?!). When I was talking about it with my dad, he reminded me of how incredibly sweet the recipe was. And as much as I loved that sweet, sticky jam growing up, I can't quite handle the amount of sugar now, nor do I want to give that to my children. So I made some adjustments to the recipe, researched a few other recipes, and came up with a really simple, slightly sweet recipe to share with you. 

(Please see note below the recipe for some commentary) 

Low Sugar Fig Jam (takes about 1 1/2 hour and makes 3 half-pint jars) 
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup Turbinado sugar 
  • 30 figs 
  • 1/2 orange, thinly sliced, with peel still on
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon 
  1. Gently wash the figs in cool water, and then place them in a bowl of cold water. Let them sit for about 20 minutes. 
  2. While the figs are sitting, mix the sugar and water on medium-high heat. Stir, pretty consistently, until all the sugar is dissolved to make a syrup. 
  3. Add the figs, orange slices, and cinnamon to the syrup. Bring to a boil. Let boil hard for 1-2 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring. 
  4. Gently pour the fig mixture into a blender, put on the lid, and pulse a few times to combine all the ingredients together. Be careful doing this. The heat from the hot syrup causes a good deal of steam inside your blender. When you pulse the mixture, the force of the steam can be enough to pop the lid off the top of the blender. 
  5. Ladle the jam into 3 hot, sterile mason jars and seal the jars. 
  6. Give them a 10 minute hot bath. 
Super, super easy! 

I reduced the amount of sugar by almost 3 cups, so I wasn't sure if it was going to jell into a syrup. But it worked out great! 

Notes about the ingredients: 
  • Turbinado Sugar: this is my new favorite sugar. I feel that I can use much less of this, still get that sweet taste, and it is not processed sugar. You could use regular sugar, but it will change the taste, and you may need to add more (about 1/2-1 cup more). 
  • Orange Slices: I made two batches of this stuff. The first batch, I cut up an entire orange. Although it still tasted great, it had kind of an orange-marmalade with a fig aftertaste. I kind of liked it, but I wanted to try a half orange the second time and got the kind of results I was looking for: more fig, less orange. 
This jam turned out really well, and I was so excited about it, that I'm going to be making another trip soon to make some more to store for later. 

Suggestions for Fig Jam: 
  • On top of vanilla ice cream
  • Mix a little with oatmeal
  • On biscuits
  • Spread over pancakes or waffles
  • On toast 

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