My friend Sara brought me figs the other day. A little giftie–much appreciated. Not much better to give a woman like me. Since it wasn’t time for figgy pudding, I opted to eat them fresh as they’re pretty rare in Colorado.
After a day or so, unable to snarf down the whole bunch, I noticed a few hairy outcroppings on one soft beauty and knew it was time to do something quickly before all was lost to the garbage. (No composting in bear territory.)
below: Sara and her Mike
I thought crostata. I wondered about pie. I envisioned my own grilled figs with blue or goat cheese, honey, thyme, and black pepper.
Then jam popped up…and jam it was. Jam it had to be. My mom made fig jam whenever the opportunity presented itself. Of course I wasn’t a fan. But that was then and this was now.
Doing a bit of eyeball measuring, I was sure I didn’t have enough figs for much jam. There was, however, a dish of peaches on the counter that I thought might pair well. I’d try it. I had nothing to lose and toast to gain for our Labor Day weekend breakfasts.
I do not make jams, jellies, or preserves and can them as my mom did; we just don’t eat enough jam to warrant that sort of effort. Fresh jam, however, is another story and we adore it. Sometimes I make a looser version and it is perfect on top of ice cream or pound cake with whipped cream. A looser version works like this: cut the fruit in larger chunks and don’t cook it quite so long. The resulting concoction is compoteish–chunkier, not so “jammy.” I sometimes add a quick dose of brandy or amaretto to perk things up. You needn’t have bushels of fruit or even perfect fruit to make fresh jam–in fact, jam is a perfectly smart-simple way to use up any fruit. You can try it with whatever you have on hand some Saturday morning and spoon it up all over your bagels or pancakes–or toast.
Fruit, sugar, heat, stir lots; that’s about all there is to it. Yes, it is a lot of sugar, but I cut it way down from some recipes. The sugar isn’t just a sweeter, it creates the texture–so it’s necessary. You’re only eating it a spoonful at time, right? (Did I say slather the jam over goat cheese with crispy crackers or grilled baguette?!) Try this however you like:
FRESH FIG AND PEACH JAM
Skip the almond extract if you like. Store in the fridge for a couple of weeks; don’t let this go bad.*
Makes about 20 ounces of jam–about 1 3/4 cups
- 2 large ripe peaches, pitted, peeled, and chopped (about 2 cups)
- 12 ripe figs, stemmed and chopped (about 2 cups)
- Pinch salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1-2 tablespoon(s) fresh lemon juice (for sweeter jam, use just 1 tablespoon)
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
In a 4-5 quart heavy pot (cast iron is good), heat the fruit, salt, sugar, and lemon juice over medium flame, stirring, until bubbly. Continue to cook, stirring often, another 15 minutes or a bit longer if your fruit wasn’t really ripe. Purée in the food processor or mash half of the mixture and return to the pot. Cook another 15 minutes, stirring very regularly (especially toward end), or until quite thick or as thick as you like. Your jam will be quite chunky if you only puréed half of the mixture. If you’d like it less so, purée or mash all of the fruit mixture. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Cool and transfer to a very clean well-sealed container and store in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 weeks.* Alternately, you could freeze a small container or place in sterilized glass jars following safe canning procedures such as this.
*Your jam is good until it molds–or at least it is in my house. Sometimes it lasts for a few weeks, but we usually eat it long before that.