Posted September 10, 2013 03:26 pm - Updated September 11, 2013 11:05 am
Although dried figs are available all year long, now’s the time to enjoy fresh figs – an end-of-season pleasure that helps say farewell to summer and hello to autumn. No matter which variety of figs you like best, be it Black Mission, Brown Turkey, or Kadotas, to name just three, they are all inimitably luscious and full of tiny seeds that make eating them so much fun. And, in case you didn’t know, those seeds are actually the flowers of the fig tree that mature inside the fruit. Says Fresno, California-based Valley Fig Growers (www.valleyfig.com), the largest handler of figs in North America “Fig trees have no blossoms on their branches. The blossom is inside of the fruit! Many tiny flowers produce the crunchy little edible seeds that give figs their unique texture.” Because fresh figs are in season and prices are attractive, besides eating figs out of hand, covering them in chocolate, or using them in recipes, I’ve also been making fresh fig jam for a recipe I’ll be sharing soon for a special holiday bourbon cake that has to be made weeks in advance of serving. Made with fresh fig jam, dried figs, dates and pecans, the cake is something you’ll truly want to consider for your Thanksgiving or Christmas table. For right now, Fresh Fig Cookies, with their cinnamon and nutmeg bite, will jump start your urge to begin fall baking. Artfully sweet and seductive, figs are here and with them, many good things to come.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fresh Fig Jam
3 pounds fresh firm-ripe figs, washed, peeled, ends trimmed and chopped into small pieces to make 4 cups
4 large lemons, juiced, to make ½ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup water
7 cups granulated sugar, measured into a separate bowl
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon butter (to help reduce foaming during cooking)
1 (3-ounce) pouch CERTO liquid fruit pectin
Prepare for water-bath canning:
Bring water-bath canner, which has been filled half way with water, to a simmer. Wash 8 (half-pint) jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water, then drain well. Pour boiling water over flat lids in a saucepan off the heat; let stand in hot water until ready to use.
Measure exactly 4 cups prepared fruit into a 6- or 8-quart saucepot. Add lemon juice and water; stir until well blended. Stir sugar into prepared fruit in the saucepot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin. Return to full rolling boil, and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with a metal spoon. Ladle mixture immediately into prepared jars, filling to within ⅛ inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in the canner, then lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes as timed with a kitchen timer. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.) Makes 8 (half-pint) jars.
Fresh Fig Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour (I like King Arthur brand)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup (1 stick) butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup chopped fresh figs
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 cup (6 ounces) white-chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts, pecans or pistachios
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. With an electric mixer set to medium speed, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add egg, beating well. Lower speed of mixer and gradually beat in flour mixture. Once flour mixture is incorporated, mix in figs and orange zest, blending well. Stir in white-chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time, until cookies are golden brown. Allow cookies to rest on cookie sheet, about 5 minutes, before removing to wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending on the size of drop.
Chocolate-Dipped Fresh Black Mission Figs
8 small Black Mission figs, washed and completely dry
1 cup (6 ounces) Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips
Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on MEDIUM (50 percent power) for 1 minute; stir. Continue microwaving at 20-second intervals, until chocolate is glossy and becomes smooth when stirred. (Chocolate chips will retain their shape even at their melting point, so be careful not to overcook them.) Holding figs by their stems, gently swirl in melted chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to drip off. Place chocolate-dipped figs onto wax paper-lined cookie sheets and let stand until firm. (Figs may be quick set in the refrigerator, but should be brought to room temperature before eating.) Best eaten the day they are made. Makes 4 servings.
Kitchen Ade Note: If even a drop of moisture comes into contact with the chocolate during the melting process, it will become gritty. (This is called “seizing.”) If this occurs, add a few drop of vegetable oil to the mixture, stirring to re-blend the chocolate until it becomes smooth again.