In Chapter 7, I describe the first time I discovered the white figs on a tree just outside of San Gusme. This was the beginning of another first love for me in Italy. In Minnesota, we don't generally have the right climate to grow fresh figs. So, for me it was an exotic smell and taste for me. Since that time, I usually look for a nice jar of fig jam in specialty stores or pack a couple of jars to bring back home with me on our annual trip back to Italy.
This week, I walked into our local Trader Joe's with high hopes that I would find fresh figs available. I had been looking for a few weeks, as I knew I might expect to see them in late August. There they were, beautiful purple figs from California! I was so excited. I set out to make a batch of fig jam so that I could preserve this delicious summer flavor for the cold winter months in Minnesota.
3 pounds fresh figs (white or purple)
2 cups sugar
1 lemon (juiced, about ¼ cup + the zest)
1 cup water
Optional: 4 tablespoons brandy
Optional: ¾ cup chopped roasted almonds
Rinse the figs and cut off the top stem. Cut the figs in half and then quarters and place in a deep saucepan (nonreactive metal). Pour the sugar over the top and stir to coat the figs with the sugar. Let sit for 20 minutes.
Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and water to the figs and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer the fig jam over moderate to low heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid coats the side of a spoon, about 30-40 minutes. Add additional water if needed if the figs start to stick to the bottom of the pan.
Take the figs off the heat and stir well.
Optional: Add roasted chopped almonds and brandy at the end of cooking. This is something that I discovered later after making fig jam with my friend Stefania who said her mom always made it this way. It is a nice addition, so give it a try.
Spoon the jam into three hot, sterilized 1/2-pint jars (to sterilize: place jars and lids in boiling water for 5 minutes), leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top. Seal the jars well and let cool at room temperature. As the jam cools in the hot jars, you should hear a popping sound when the top cover and seal create a vacuum and indicates the seal is good. Store the jam in a cool pantry or the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
Recipe note: When I am in Minnesota, I always find fresh purple figs at Trader Joe’s in August. They also carry fresh frozen white figs that will work in this recipe. This jam pairs well with any aged cheese on a cheese plate. This is a fantastic jam to use in the crostata di marmellata as well.