The fig is an ancient delicacy: The prophet Mohammad once conjectured that it might be descended directly from Paradise. In the Northern Hemisphere, figs only bring their sensual, delicate, sweet-and-tart taste to store shelves (and tree branches) in autumn. Fig season will end soon, and it'll be hard to find these exotic beauties over the winter. Luckily, figs lend themselves incredibly well to preserving. It's easy to make a basic fig jam, rich in flavor and texture, that provides a gourmet alternative to ho-hum jelly.
Fig jam's deep flavor works well in both sweet and savory pairings. Try it with soft cheeses, adding herbs and balsamic for an elegant appetizer on the cheap. Or for a decadent treat, whip up a fig jam and prosciutto pizza!
Basic Fig Jam
2 pounds of fresh, ripe figs, washed, with the stems removed
1 1/4 cups of raw sugar -- adjust to taste, based on the sweetness of the figs
Juice and zest of one lemon
Pinch of kosher salt
Optional: 2 to 4 tablespoons of honey, balsamic vinegar or Grand Marnier
Place all the ingredients in a deep, non-reactive pot. Bring the pot to a gentle simmer and stir the mixture. Cover the pot and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
Remove the cover and increase the heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Stir your jam frequently, and don't forget to taste it! Add sugar as necessary, and mash the figs with a potato masher if they need help breaking down.
In another pot, prepare your jam jars by placing them in enough water to completely cover them, and bringing the pot to a boil. Turn the heat to low and, when the water has cooled significantly, add the jar lids. Leave the lids and jars in the hot water until you're ready to use them.
As the jam begins to thicken, stir it constantly so it doesn't burn. When it's slightly thinner than jam, spoon it into the jars. Close the jars tightly and boil them again for ten minutes. Check the seals; if well-sealed, your jam will keep over winter. Anything with a less than perfect seal should be refrigerated and eaten right away. Enjoy!
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