We have Dexter to thank for these Drunken Fig Preserves. Dexter is the neighborhood feline hunter. Patient, sleek, and aloof, he has cleaned up the neighborhood so well that my neighbors now are able to harvest figs from their tree vs. the neighborhood critters helping themselves to the bounty.
Dexter makes his presence known. Those who used the fence as their nighttime freeway to the neighbor’s urban orchard are on some other road trip. No more surprises of “what happened to that perfect fig I was going to pick this morning?” His owners, neighbors on the other side, put a bell on his collar to even out the game, but Dexter remains proficient. No messing with Dex!
Figs. There are so many ways to enjoy ripe figs. Fresh – slathered with soft chèvre, toasted sliced almonds, and dribbles of balsamic vinegar, or grilled atop a cracker and manchego cheese, or simply split open and consumed. Or as brandied fig preserves dolloped upon thick slices of buttered sourdough toast, or on cheese plates to add texture and sweetness.
This recipe is adapted from Epicurious – adding brandy to the bottom of the sterilized jars keeps more of the brandy in the preserves, mellowing the sweet concoction over time.
Recipe: Drunken Fig Preserves
Adding the lemon juice toward the end of cooking brightens the preserves ruby red color. Either white or dark fresh figs, or a combination can be used.
- 3 lbs. ripe fresh figs (about 6 1/2 cups cut up)
- 2 lemons
- 2 cups or more granulated sugar
- 4-5 Tablespoons brandy
- Prepare ingredients: rinse figs and drain well. Remove stems from figs and cut fruit into 1/2″ pieces, discarding any overripe sections, put into a large mixing bowl. Scrub lemons well using the rough side of a clean non-scratch sponge, rinse well, and dry. Finely grate the lemon zest over the cut figs. Add sugar to the figs, using a 1/4 cup more sugar if figs are not particularly sweet (taste figs). Mix well and let macerate at room temperature for 1-3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
- Make jam: prepare and sterilize jam jars according to manufacturers directions or see this post in Food In Jars for processing jars and lids to “can” this jam and a safe canning process.. If fig mixture has been refrigerated, remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature, about an hour. Squeeze and strain the juice from the 2 lemons.
- Scrape fig mixture into a Dutch oven or preserving pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. The mixture is thick but will loosen when heated and then thicken up again as it cooks. Reduce to medium heat and continue to cook at a moderate boil. Stir frequently to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot; reduce heat to prevent scorching if necessary. Squish the large fig pieces with a potato masher several times if needed while the figs are cooking. When fig mixture thickens up again, about 30-35 minutes, add the lemon juice and cook for 2-5 minutes allowing the mixture to thicken up again.
- Fill jars and finish: when ready, remove jam from heat. Remove the sterilized jars from their hot bath, place upside down on a clean towel and then turn right side up. Pour 1 tablespoon brandy into bottom of each sterilized 1/2 pint jar; use 1 1/2 teaspoons for 4-ounce jars. Ladle jam into the jars leaving 1/8″ headspace; the jam will settle down after brandy gets absorbed. The brandy may sizzle from the hot jam. Run a sterilized butter knife (dip it into the jar’s water bath for a few seconds) along the inside edges of the jars to remove air pockets. Seal and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool on a wire rack.
- Refrigerate jars that don’t seal properly. Age the preserves for a couple of weeks allowing the brandy to mellow.
Makes 4-5 half-pint jars.