Figs - Preserving the Harvest

Storing fresh figs

Figs won't last long at room temperature, but a mildly cool refrigerator will keep them several days.

Canning Figs Without Sugar
Use tree ripened figs. Sort and wash carefully. DO NOT use soda for cleaning; it could make figs unsafe when canned plain in boiling water bath canner. Instead bring figs to boil in hot water; let stand 3 to 4 minutes; drain. This removes the "milk" from the skins and cleans them. Pack in hot jars; add 1 tablespoon canned lemon juice per quart and cover with boiling water. Seal and process in boiling water bath canner: Pints, 45 minutes; quarts, 50 minutes.

Canning Figs in Syrup
Use tree ripened figs. Sort and wash carefully. Leave figs whole, only remove the woody part of the stem.
Put figs in a sauce pan with enough water to barely cover the figs--water should be boiling when the figs are added. Sweeten with roughly 1 tsp of sugar per fig or make a full batch of Very Light Syrup and use that to boil the figs. Boil for 5 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to fill jars with hot figs, gently tapping the bottom of the jar on the countertop to help pack the figs down gently (tapping does it without breaking the figs)

Very Important: Add 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice to each pint jar of figs or 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice to each quart jar.

Fill jars with hot Very Light Syrup leaving 1/2 headspace. Clean rim, apply cap, and process in a Boiling Water Bath for 45 minutes for pints or 50 minutes for quarts.

Freezing Figs

Freeze within 12 hours of picking time, if possible. Prepare and freeze Figs only about 3 pints at one time. Then repeat the process until all Figs are frozen.

1. Make a medium sweetness syrup of
3 cups sugar
4 cups water
The figs will taste slightly sweeter than desired at this stage to be the proper flavor after freezing. Simply stir the sugar into the water to dissolve. No heating is necessary.
2. To the sugar syrup, add an citric/ascorbic add mixture bought at the grocery store (for example, "Fruit Fresh") and follow the directions on the package, generally adding about 1 teaspoon per batch. This is to help preserve color and flavor.
3. Wash the figs. remove the stems and any soft spots. Slice the figs about ¼-inch (1/2 cm) thick.
4. Pack the sliced figs into polyethylene containers, ziploc bags, or vacuum freezer bags, allowing room to add about 1/2 cup of sugar syrup, and allowing about 1/2 inch per pint expansion room. More room will be needed for larger containers. Pack the containers to force out as much air as possible since air dries out the figs when they freeze. Be sure to label and date containers.
5. Place containers as quickly as possible into the coldest part of your freezer, allowing room around the containers to promote fast freezing. Containers can be packed more economically after they are frozen solid, usually 24 hours.

When you are ready to eat them, thaw the frozen figs in the refrigerator in the container.

Drying Figs

Wash figs and cut each one in half. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and place them in the oven at 150 degrees F. Prop the oven door open to allow the steam to escape. Drying will take about 4-6 hours and figs should be turned over at about 3 or 4 hours, for even drying.

Once the figs are dry and leathery, they need to be "shocked" to kill any remaining pathogens.

Allow figs to cool, bag them in zip-top bags and freeze for at least a week. Figs are then shelf stable and can be stored in the pantry.

OR, Turn up the oven heat to 175 degrees F for the last 15 minutes of drying. Allow to cool and store in a sealed container in the pantry.

Fig Jam
2 quarts chopped fresh figs (about 5 pounds)
6 cups of sugar
¾ cup of water
½ cup of lemon juice

To prepare chopped figs: Cover figs with boiling water. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain, stem, and chop figs.

Combine figs, sugar and ¼ cup of water in a large sauce pot. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly until thick. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Add lemon juice and cook 1 minute longer. Pour hot into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch head space. Adjust caps. Process 15 minutes on a boiling water bath. Yields about 5 pints.
Variations:
  • Strawberry Fig Jam-Replace 1 quart of figs in recipe above with 1 quart of strawberries, hulled and sliced.
  • Raspberry Fig Jam-Replace 1 quart of figs in recipe above with 1 quart of raspberries.
  • Figs in Honey-Replace 6 cups of sugar with 5 cups of honey.
  • Jalapeno Fig Preserves-Add 1 chopped jalapeno(with seeds will be hot-discard seeds for a milder version. Wear gloves when handling spicy peppers!)
  • Fig Marmalade-Replace 2 cups of figs with 2 cups of very thin lemon, orange or tangerine slices.
  • Fig and Ginger Jam-Add 1/8 cup finely grated ginger.
  • Pear & Fig Preserves- Replace 1 quart of figs with 1 quart of pears, peeled, cored and chopped.
  • Sour Cherry Fig Preserves- Replace 2 cups of figs with 2 cups of sour cherries.
Fig RelishThis recipe makes an excellent marinade for grilled fish.

2 pounds finely chopped fresh figs
4 tablespoons of minced capers
zest of 4 lemons, minced
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp dried parsley
2 tbsp dried basil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
Gently rinse and stem the figs; chop them into about 1/4-inch pieces, being sure to catch all the juice. Toss in a bowl with the capers, lemon zest and juice, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic and herbs.

Bring slowly to a boil. Cook rapidly until thickened.
Sterilize canning jars. Pour hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner: 5 minutes for half pints or pints.

Fig Compote(makes four 4-ounce jars of fig compote)

Juice of 4 oranges (8 ounces juice)
32 ounces figs, chopped (preferably black mission figs)
1.5 tablespoon sugar
2 cups red wine
10 sprigs lemon thyme
4 cups water
Cheesecloth or spice bag

Squeeze the oranges to get 8 ounces of juice. Put the juice in a bowl.

Add chopped figs to bowl, as well as sugar. Lightly mix the three and put the mixture in the refrigerator to let it rest for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, wrap your lemon thyme sprigs in cheesecloth, or stuff them into a cheesecloth spice bag.

Empty your bowl of figs/sugar/orange juice into a non-reactive saucepan. Add the red wine, water, and the bag of thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Discard the spice bag.
Sterilize canning jars. Pour hot preserves into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner: 5 minutes for half pints or pints.



Fig and Walnut Confit

2 cups dried figs coarsely chopped
½ cup of white wine
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
¾ cup shelled fresh walnuts
Preparation:

In a 1-1/2-quart heavy saucepan stir together ingredients and simmer, covered, 1 hour. Remove lid and simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is evaporated and mixture is thickened.
Sterilize canning jars. Pour hot preserves into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner: 5 minutes for half pints or pints.


Balsamic Fig Honey Marinade

8 cups fresh figs washed and cut in half
2 cups honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 Balsamic Vinegar

Preparation:
Combine all ingredients in a pan. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, being careful not to get it too hot or scald.
When the skins of the figs have broken down and the balsamic has reduced, remove from heat. Strain to remove fig skin pieces.
Sterilize canning jars. Pour hot marinade into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner: 5 minutes for half pints or pints. Use your smallest jars for this recipe--a little goes a long way.

Balsamic Fig & Honey Salad Dressing

Mix canned marinade with an equal measure of olive oil.

Marinated Grilled Chicken
Mix a half pint of canned marinade with 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil. During the last few minutes of grilling, baste chicken with marinade. Alternatively, soak chicken pieces in marinade mix overnight and grill at low temperatures to prevent burning.

Fig & Onion Jam
Serve this sweet & salty jam with crackers and cheeses.
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 large onions, halved, thinly slice
Salt + pepper to taste
20 fresh figs, stemmed, chopped
1 cup honey
4 tbsp each: balsamic vinegar, tamarind paste
2 tsp fennel seeds, slightly crushed

In medium skillet, heat oil over medium-low. Add onions. Cook, stirring, until deep golden, about 1 hour, raising heat to medium if desired without burning onions. Season with salt and pepper. Add figs, honey, vinegar, tamarind and fennel.

Gently simmer over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until figs break up and mixture turns jammy, about 30 minutes.

Sterilize canning jars. Pour hot preserves into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner: 5 minutes for half pints or pints.

Fig Preserves
This recipe is very easy and fast, but does require two nights in the refrigerator before sealing into jars. It produces about 7 pints. The recipe can be halved if desired.

4 Quarts fresh figs
5 lbs. sugar
3 lemons, sliced
4-5 cinnamon sticks
8 to 10 thin slices of fresh ginger

Please read Using Boiling Water Canners before beginning. If this is your first time canning, it is recommended that you read Principles of Home Canning.

1. Clean the figs thoroughly. If they are small, remove the stems and cut them in half, large figs can be cut into quarters.

2. Put a layer of sugar in the bottom of a stockpot with a good, heavy bottom. Put a layer of figs on top of the sugar.

3. Continue layering sugar and figs, ending with sugar, make sure all of the figs are covered in sugar.

4. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

5. The next day, place the pot on the stove, and very slowly heat until the sugar has all turned to liquid. Add the lemons, cinnamon sticks, and fresh ginger.

6. Boil, stirring now and again until the mixture is thick, being careful not to let it burn.

7. Remove from heat, and let it cool. The next step assures perfect consistency.

8. Place in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, when it is cold from the refrigerator, the consistency can be adjusted. If it is thicker than you like, thin it with just a little water at a time, stirring it in until it is the right consistency when it is cold. If it's chunkier than you like, just use a pair of kitchen scissors in the pot to cut the pieces smaller. If it's not thick enough, it can be boiled down some more.

Makes about 7 pints.

Sterilize canning jars. Reheat figs and syrup to boiling. Pour hot preserves into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner: 5 minutes for half pints or pints.

Pickled Figs
When figs are in abundance or ripe on the trees it is time to find ways to eat them and enjoy the harvest. Everyone knows about and has eaten fresh figs, fig cookies and dried figs but how many have eaten pickled figs? This is an old fashioned recipe that isn't seen or heard of much lately. Follow this recipe to make pickled figs and experience a taste from the past.

7 lbs of fresh figs
6 cups of sugar
2 cups of cider vinegar
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp whole cloves

Wash whole figs and put them in the large kettle with just enough water to cover them. Don't remove the peel. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 20 minutes.

While the figs are simmering put the other ingredients in the second kettle and bring to a boil on low heat. Stirring constantly so that it won't scorch. The syrup is ready when the sugar is completely dissolved and it has a thickened syrupy consistency.

Remove the figs from the heat after the 20 minutes simmering time. Drain off the water and discard. Keep the figs in the large kettle until the syrup is ready.

When the syrup is ready, pour the hot syrup over the hot figs and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the figs and syrup mix from the heat and ladle and pour the figs and syrup into clean canning jars. Put on lids and set aside to cool. These pickled figs can be kept in the refrigerator and eaten at will right out of the jar.

To preserve the fig pickles:
Sterilize canning jars. Pour hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner: 5 minutes for half pints or pints or 10 minutes for quarts.

Cookbooks from the early 1900's all had many recipes for pickled vegetables and fruits. They were served with every meal and used as a condiment for the meats and breads that were eaten at the meals. Make this recipe for pickled figs and discover an old fashioned taste to start new traditions for family meals and pot lucks.

Fig Leaves

Fig leaves are not only edible, but also provide various health benefits when consumed. Unfortunately, "edible" doesn't mean "palatable"--fig leaves are generally bland, tough, and stringy. If you are determined to eat these, it is easiest to dry the leaves and process them into a fine powder. Then the powder can be added to recipes with the only noticeable change being the green color added by the leaves.

Diabetes- As explained on the Elements 4 Health website, consuming fig leaves can provide several healthy benefits for the body. Among these benefits, its anti-diabetic properties are among the most recognized. When consumed by a person with diabetes, fig leaves actually lower the amount of insulin required by the body. These extraordinary effects allow the diabetic to administer less insulin by injection, a costly and often life-long process.

Triglycerides- Along with their anti-diabetes properties, fig leaves also have been shown to lower the body's triglyceride levels. A triglyceride is the storage form of fat inside the body. Although a certain supply of triglycerides is required for proper health and body function, too many triglycerides greatly increase the risk for obesity and heart disease. However, a diet with regular fig leaf consumption may help lower these health risks as it gradually lowers triglyceride levels.

Home Remedies- Along with their remarkable anti-diabetes and triglyceride-lowering effects, fig leaves are also used in a variety of other home remedies for various medical conditions. In fact, the Natural News website recommends the mild leaf for conditions ranging from bronchitis to ulcers. According to the website, fig leaf tea can be beneficial for cardiovascular problems, cancer patients and people with high blood pressure. To make fig leaf tea, simply boil fig leaves in water for at least 15 minutes. A home remedy for bronchitis involves boiling water with three fig leaves and piloncillo, an unrefined sugar. A home remedy for ulcers involves chewing and swallowing two whole fig leaves daily.

Recipes- Although fig leaves are edible, they are used in very few recipes. In fact, Dave's Garden website acknowledges that fig leaves are typically only used to "wrap around foods." For example, the Saveur website features a "Grilled Sea Bass Wrapped in Fig Leaves" recipe, while the Martha Stewart website features a "Salmon Wrapped In Fig Leaves" recipe. The leaves can also be used as a wrap for rice and vegetables, giving the dish a Mediterranean flavor. The flavor of fig leaves is very neutral but the sap gives a smell that resembles coconut. Young leaves maybe chopped and added to stir fries.