I am amazed again at the wonderfulness of figs. I was in the top of our fig tree (on a ladder of course) picking yet more figs yesterday. It was stunning! I was hot, sticky from fig juice, and sweaty when I stopped and actually looked beyond the next fig; it was a buzzing ecosystem up there! I watched a dragonfly attack a wasp and swirl down to the ground in dueling battle. Butterflies fluttered about in groups and multiple colors and patterns. Bees, yellow jackets, wasps, and June Beetles buzzed and ate the rotting figs where I couldn’t reach. I saw house flies and fruit flies as well. On the ground one of our goats got in the bucket of figs I had already picked and helped himself to a snack, and the hen who has been setting on a clutch of eggs worked on any rotten ones I had thrown to the ground. It simply amazed me anew! And all that, combined with all the health benefits of the fig tree to people.
The fig tree is highly valued in the countries of origin and is a keystone plant ecologically-speaking. I am only beginning to understand the significance and uses this tree has for us. Of course, I know the fruit is yummy, but did you know the leaves are also good for you? In some places the leaves are used in cooking, to wrap foods in and baked or steamed. However, I had no idea that they are excellent for controlling blood sugar and are very good for diabetics and people with high blood pressure! When I go out to the fig tree I also notice there are very few pests on the leaves; can it be that fig leaves emit natural bug repellants? It turns out the leaves and unripe figs emit liquid latex, protecting them from all but a few species of insects. Here are a few links to information on the health benefits of figs to humans that I found interesting;
So, with all this in mind, I set about using the fruit I had gathered. I love dried figs, but our dehydrator broke last year. However, we will soon have one again thanks to a friend. In the meantime, I have been making jams and preserves with low-sugar/no-sugar pectin. Almost more of a fig-sauce than a jam without the pectin added, but with the pectin it can be used on cookies, breads, cakes, etc. I have been making up recipes to play with taste. Figs are quite sweet, but they don’t look terribly appealing canned unless a touch of sugar is added to improve clarity and color, so I add honey or raw sugar (which improves on the taste and mineral content). Here are a few of the recipes I have created or adapted this year. Keep in mind I seldom use half-pints, so my batches are rather large.
*Please note: These are only what I do. If you use these recipes, you do so at your own risk.
Hot n’ Spicy Fig Jam
Yield: Aprox. 5-6 pints
- 8 cups figs, pulsed in a food processor (pulse, then measure)
- 4 Tablespoons low-sugar/no-sugar powdered pectin
- 1-3 teaspoons red pepper flakes/seeds (the full amount is hot enough to send you to the moon!)
- 1 cup lemon juice
- spices if desired; 1/2 tsp. each of any of these alone or combined: clove, cinnamon, allspice, mace, nutmeg
- 2 cup raw sugar (or 1 cup honey, but decrease the lemon juice to 1/2 cup if using honey)
- 1/2 cup orange liqueur (trust me, this is amazing and brings out flavors you would never have imagined, and the alcohol is removed quickly!)
- Prepare jars and heat water bath canner.
- Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pot except sugar and liqueur. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat, stirring frequently and more often as it reaches the boiling point. Stir in sugar or honey and bring back to a roiling boil and boil for 1 minute.
- Stir in liqueur, being careful as it will bubble/boil furiously. Ladel into hot jars, wipe rims and place lids on. Boil in a water bath canner for 10 minutes for pints or half-pints. Remove to cool on a towel and check seal.
Yield: Aprox. 6 pints
- 12 cups figs, pulsed to a chunky puree in a blender or food processor
- 2 1/2 cups lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 cup honey
Combine all ingredients in a large crockpot on low overnight to meld flavors. Heat to boiling on a stove, stirring constantly, and spoon into hot, sterilized jars. Put lids in place and process pints for 10 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes in a water bath canner. Remove to cool, and check seal.
Orange-honey Fig Preserves
Yield: Aprox. 5 pints
- 8 cups figs, washed, chopped
- 2 lemons, sliced finely and seeds removed
- 2 oranges, sliced finely and seeds removed
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup honey
- 4 tablespoons low-sugar/no-sugar pectin
- 1/2 cup orange liqueur
- cinnamon sticks for each jar
- Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pot except the liqueur. Heat to a roiling boil and boil for 1 minute.
- Stir in the orange liqueur
- Place 1 stick cinnamon in each jar. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head-space, and place lids.
- Process pints and half-pints 10 minutes in water bath canner. Remove, cool, and check seal.