I love the look on the face of a person who's only known Fig Newtons and is getting their first taste of a tree-ripe, juicy, sweet, luscious fig from our back yard. Figs are one of the best fruiting trees for the south and for partial shade and for growing organically. They are drought hardy, rarely have serious bug or disease problems and are very hardy in our mild winters.
The first of three harvests we get each summer from our Violette de Bourdeaux (bought from Edible Landscaping Nursery in Afton Va.) is the sweetest and we give away a lot. The spicy/sweet fig jam in the photo above is from our neighbor Sandi, who's a great cook. She was re-creating a fig jam she had tasted before and could no longer buy. ( I've read that great cooking is really about capturing flavors that are anchored in our memories.)
Okay, so now this spicey/sweet fig jam is anchored in my memory too.And here's Sandi's recipe in her own words:
Okay, I'm pretty sure what I did was (using a basic, old-fashioned jam recipe technique from Joy of Cooking):
4 to 5 cups of fresh figs, washed, half of them chopped roughly, the other half quartered: put in a pot and press down on them a little to get some juices oozing.
Add 3 cups of sugar and slowly bring to a boil, then keep simmering, stirring frequently to keep from sticking or burning
(the old recipe calls for 3/4 to 1 c. of sugar to each cup of fruit, and I went on the lighter side, but still very sweet. However, I think you DO need a high sugar content if you want to avoid using pectin)
Meanwhile, stick a jalepeño with a carving fork, and roast over open flame until blackened all over. Stick it in a paper bag to steam & cool for ten minutes.
Peel the charred skin off of the pepper, and mince finely. Depending on how hot you want the jam, throw away some or all of the seeds before adding to figs. (in the recipe I tried, I threw away about half, but think I should have left them ALL in. For MY taste, next time, I think I would use two jalepeños.)
Toss jalepeño and seeds into the simmering jam, along with 1 stick of cinnamon, and 4 or 5 cloves.
Continue to cook and stir until quite thickened (a total of about 45 minutes); remove the cinnamon stick (and any of the cloves you might notice), and pack in glass jars.
Should make 6, 7, or 8 half-pint jelly jarfuls.