I’ve been fortunate enough to be offered enough fruit to make jars of jam and a freezer full of sauce.
Fig jam is one of my favorites. Delicious on toast or a hot biscuit, fig jam has uses well beyond breakfast. Try it with cheddar cheese on a cracker or in a grilled cheese sandwich.
Serve it as as appetizer on top of any creamy cheese, such as a Brie, Camembert, Stilton or Gorgonzola.
For an appetizer, top warmed focaccia with dollops of goat cheese, fig jam, a sprinkle of fresh thyme and a few grindings of black pepper.
For a glaze, mix½ cup of jam with 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to glaze pork, lamb or salmon.
Or replace your usual jam with fig in thumbprint cookies, making a sort of open-face Fig Newton.
I prefer making fig jam without adding pectin, which means jam that could be runnier or thicker rather than having the consistent pectin jell. That’s fine with me.
Runny jam is good mixed into yogurt, poured over pancakes or waffles, or spooned over ice cream.
There is an additional plus to making jam without pectin.
The timing isn’t critical and if you must tend to something, you can turn the heat down or off and come back to it. To be safe, boiling sugary fruit and children (or pets) aren’t a safe combination. If you have any small ones around, send them off to play elsewhere.
When making your own jam, there are some ways of canning that have the potential for being unsafe. With the investment of your time and ingredients, make sure you can share your jam with confidence.
This means investing in a water bath canner, jars made for canning with new lids, a wide-mouth funnel, a lid lifter (a magnet on a plastic stick for getting the lids out of boiling water), and a jar lifter. Maybe the first time you can borrow from a canning friend to make sure this is something you’ll want to do again.
The first time I canned cherries, a neighbor told me not to bother with canning jars. She used mayonnaise and pasta sauce jars with new canning lids. Not having any prior experience canning, I took her advice. Not a good idea.
I made two batches of cherries. At least one jar broke in each batch, which meant the rest of the jars had a sticky film of sugary cherry syrup that had to washed off with soapy water. To add insult to injury, my small daughter pronounced she didn’t like cooked cherries (and still doesn’t).
Begin by measuring all your ingredients. Check every jar to be sure the rims are intact with no chips or the lids won’t seal. Sterilize the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes; keep them in barely simmering water until ready to fill them.
You can begin cooking the jam while the jars sterilize.
Using a shallow, wide skillet allows the jam to cook faster than using a Dutch oven or pasta pot because there’s more of the jam in contact with the bottom of the pan. I use a 12-inch wide pan often called a chicken fryer.
Process the filled jars in boiling water for 5 minutes so the jam will keep without refrigeration. You do need to refrigerate the jars once they’ve been opened.
Makes about 6 half-pint jars
- 8 cups diced figs
- 3 cups sugar
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup water
Put 7 jars in a water bath (you might have a bit of jam left over to put into the refrigerator.) Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Let boil for 10 minutes, reduce heat to low, and leave the jars in the hot water at a simmer.
Lay a dish towel on a heat-proof surface or cooling rack.
While the jars are coming to the boil, put a heat-proof pie pan in the freezer. Put all of the jam ingredients into a large wide skillet over medium high heat.
Bring to a boil and stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
Reduce heat to low and cook figs, uncovered and continuing to stir occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes. Stir more frequently as the mixture thickens and the green figs turn solidly toast colored. Mash any larger pieces with a spoon as it cooks.
The jam will be fairly runny but it will thicken as it cools. You can test for jelling by taking pie pan out of the freezer and spooning some of the jam onto it. Let it sit a minute then nudge it with your finger or the spoon. If it makes a wrinkle on top, it’s done. If it doesn’t, put the pan back into the freezer and cook for a few more minutes before testing again.
You can also cook the jam until it reaches 220 degrees, if you have a candy thermometer. If you feel uncertain, you can do either the wrinkle test or check the temperature first, then confirm using the other method.
As the jam nears the end of cooking, put the washed jar lids into a small saucepan and cover with boiling water. (You can take a couple of scoops from the water bath canner.) This is where it’s good to have a friend help. Have one person removing the jars from the water bath with the jar lifter, draining the water out into the canner before turning them upside down on the dish towel-lined work surface to drain. Right the jar and using the funnel, spoon jam into the jar to about ¼ -inch from the top. Wipe the rim of the jars clean with a damp cloth, place a lid from the hot water, and screw on a lid ring.
Repeat with every jar until all the jam is done. You’ll probably end up with a jar that isn’t quite full which you can let cool and keep in the refrigerator to use first.
Place the jars back in the water bath with the jar lifter, replace the lid, and raise heat to high to bring to a boil. As soon as the water comes to a boil, set a timer for five minutes.
Again using the jar lifter, remove the jars from the water bath and set back on the dish towel covered work surface to cool.
You will hear a satisfying ping as each jar seals.
If any jars don’t ping or after the jars have cooled the center of the lid doesn’t pop down and stay down when touched, keep those jars in the refrigerator or freezer.