The dry summer and mild autumn here in Oregon have produced a pleasant surprise: the main crop of Negronne Figs have ripened! In our cool climate, the only figs suitable to grow are those that produce a delicious breba (first) crop. Many figs produce small, mealy breba figs that aren’t sweet and aren’t worth eating. Some varieties – like my Desert King and Negronne figs – are prized for their sweet, abundant breba figs. Most years the weather turns too cold for the later, main crop of figs to ripen. However, this year the Negronne’s main crop has been producing about 10 lbs of figs per week the past three weeks.
With the unexpected abundance of figs so late in the season, I’ve been cutting and freezing and preserving them, because we cannot possibly eat them all fresh. Truly ripe figs that have the most complex and fully-developed flavor only keep for a few days, and must be utilized quickly. One way to use up a significant portion of the bounty is to make jam.
Figs are the sweetest fruit, with a Brix rating of 20-30, and rarely as high as 40. (A very rough, untechnical definition: Brix is a measurement of sugar content, with 1 Brix = approx 1-2% sugar by volume). They have no acid and can by cloyingly sweet. I find plain fig jam almost overwhelmingly sweet and like to eat it with salty cheese to cut the sweetness.
Another option is to add a highly acidic ingredient to fig jam, so that its sharpness will cut the intense sweetness of the fruit. I’ve made fig and balsamic vinegar jam, and thoroughly enjoy it – especially over ice cream. The flavor is sophisticated and refreshing, but not particularly kid-friendly. This time, I had citrus in the fridge, and so chose that for the acid component of the jam. (If you like your jam quite tart, feel free to double the lime pulp and lime zest in this recipe.)
Fig + 3 Citrus Jam
Makes 4-5 half-pint jars
4 cups of finely chopped fresh figs (I cut them into 12ths)
2 1/2 C white granulated sugar
zest of 1 lime
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
juice of 1 Meyer lemon
zest of 1 large orange
1 large orange
1/2 tsp sea salt
Optional: 2 -3 Tbsp Grand Marnier
- In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the chopped figs and sugar, stirring to combine. Allow to macerate while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Using a microplane, zest the lemon, orange and one lime. Juice the lemon. Set zest aside.
- Remove the peel/pith from the orange. Section out the fruit, and chop it. Squeeze the remaining membrane and reserve the juice. Repeat with the two limes. (Total reserved juice = about 3 Tbsp)
4. Prepare a hot water bath and sterilize jars, lids, and rings. Recipe makes 4-5 half-pints.
5. Turn heat to medium on the figs and sugar. As it warms, stir in the citrus ingredients and 1/2 tsp salt.
6. Bring mixture to a full boil, and cook, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Periodically mash with the back of the spoon or a potato masher to break up the pieces of fig. In 45-60 min, jam will thicken to desired consistency. Keep in mind, this is an old-fashioned jam without extra commercial pectin, and figs are low in pectin. The citrus contains pectin and will set the jam, but it will be a little thinner than jams with added pectin.
Immediately before pouring jam into jars, stir in 2-3 Tbsp of Grand Marnier (taste, if you want more, add another Tbsp), and stir thoroughly. Allow to cook for 2 minutes. (be careful, too much alcohol will thin the jam too much.)
8. Pour finished jam into hot sterilized half-pint jars, wipe rims, place lids and rings on, and process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes. Jam will continue to thicken in the jar over the next 24 hours.