Saturday, August 29, 2015

In a Fig Jam

It's fig season!

Our neighbors have a fig tree that seems to yield nearly endless quantities of figs for a couple weeks each summer. We shared a few of our peaches with them, and they sent over a huge pan full of fresh figs. Yummy!

We couldn't eat them fast enough, so we decided to make a small batch of jam. I make some jams with added pectin and some without; since this was a small quantity and would be delicious with a soft set, I made it without.

I used this recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation:
  • 2 quarts chopped fresh figs (about 5 pounds)
  • ¾ cup water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
I cut it down to accommodate our smaller quantity of figs. But other than that, I don't screw around with jam recipes (including doubling them - larger quantities don't always work.) I usually consider recipes more general guidelines than hard and fast instructions, but anything preserved is a little different.  I preserve my jams in a boiling water bath, and that's only safe for foods high enough in sugar or acid. Messing around with those ratios can result in bacteria growth. For preserved foods, always use recipes from reputable sources.

That said - don't be intimidated by homemade jams and jellies! They're actually very easy to make. The flavors and textures are miles ahead of store-bought jam, which honestly usually tastes like purple sugar glop. Homemade jam is bursting with the flavors and textures of fresh fruit. And it keeps, so just a few batches will let you enjoy straight-off-the-tree flavors all year. 

First, sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water.

Maybe I'll just eat it all right now.

Chop the figs, and toss them in a large pot with the sugar and water. Bring it to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Let it boil until it starts to thicken, then add the lemon juice. Boil for another minute or two.
Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble!

To tell when jam without pectin is done, I use the sheeting test. Basically, I dip a metal spoon into the jam and then watch it drip off the spoon. When it comes off in sheets instead of individual drops, it's ready. (Learn more about ways to tell when your jam is done - including a picture of sheeting - here.)

Pour the jam into the hot, sterilized jars. Leave a little bit of room (called head space) in each jar. Put on the tops and rings, then pop them back into the boiling water. Processing times vary according to your altitude. I'm more or less at sea level, and I boil most jams for about 10 minutes. This recipe only called for 5.

Take the jars out of the boiling water and set them somewhere to cool. Now no touching for 24 hours! They will seal as they cool. If the seal fails on a jar or two, that's ok - just keep them in the fridge and eat them right away.

I might as well not have sealed our jars at all, because I don't think they're going to last very long!

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