I was standing in the late evening sun baking at a swim meet when I got Pam's text: "we have too many figs..." I offered to help her with that terrible problem and by the time I had gotten home there was a basket of figs waiting for me in front of the door. Woohoo!
I thought I'd make jam or a compote, but instead I put the basket into the refrigerator and just drew from the box whenever I needed a snack. Next thing I knew, there were only 2 left, not enough to make anything.
So when the phone rang and Lily offered me more figs, it only took me a second to process: I'm making raspberry jam now. I'm leaving town in three days. I have no time before I go to take on an additional project.
"Yes! I'd love some!"
Because I did want them.
I put the box immediately into the fridge and began eating them, but this time in my pre-vacation jam making frenzy I also made fig jam.
I had thought of adding lemon, but when I talked to Lily, she mentioned making jam with lemon and candied ginger. Yum!
Once I started cooking and added the lemon, though, I tasted the mixture and switched gears. I wanted something grassy or herby to counteract the sweet-tart of the fig and lemon combination. I had just enough thyme in the yard to make it work. The thyme is barely discernible, but it just grounds the flavors.
And I still have the lemon-ginger combination to look forward to next time.
Just before we left, I had a few not-yet-on-vacation folks over for a clean out the refrigerator dinner. We sampled my freshly made jams spooned over vanilla ice cream and, as good as the blueberry and raspberry jam were, this was the real star of the party.
Fig, Lemon, and Thyme Jam
The figs are thick enough that no pectin is needed to thicken the jam. I only added enough thyme to balance out the sweet-tart flavor of the lemon and figs; if you want more thyme flavor, double the amount. Putting Food by is my primary resource for canning but the Department of Agriculture's guidelines for canning are extremely thorough and will give you all you need to know to can safely.
Makes 5-6 12-ounce jars of jam
Approximately 1 hour preparation and cooking time
About 20 figs
4 cups granulated sugar
3 teaspoons lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
Put a couple of small plates in the refrigerator to chill.
Wash the figs and trim off their stems. Cut them into quarters. Put the figs into a stockpot and stir in the sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Mash the figs with a potato masher or, if you want to take a shortcut, use an immersion blender. Pulse the blender just a few times so that some of the fruit still remains chunky. Bring mixture to a simmer and let it cook for a 15 or so minutes to thicken.
The figs are not very watery so they should thicken up nicely. If you want to test the jam to be sure that it is thick enough, put a teaspoon of jam on one of the chilled plates. Return it to the refrigerator for one minute. After a minute, remove it and tilt the plate. Most of the preserves should remain in the center of the plate, while some of it -- especially the more liquid portion -- will slowly spread out towards the edge of the plate.
Turn off the heat and add the lemon zest, juice, and thyme. Transfer to sterilized jars and preserve as desired.