These homemade fig preserves are infused with real vanilla bean for a sweet spread that has endless uses. Try slathering on bread, serving alongside a cheese tray or even dolloping into your morning bowl of oatmeal.
Two summers ago, I took a girls trip to Maine. Our mission? Eat and drink our way through Portland.
From duck fat fries to brewery visits and everything in between, I’d give us an A+ on accomplishing that.
I had never met Rebecca in real life prior to the trip but when we all arrived at the Mercury Inn and she came bearing little gift bags of Wegman’s honey mustard (no honey mustard out there comes close), a hand made bowl from a local potter and homemade candied jalapeños for each of us, I knew she was good people.
Those candied jalapeños lasted about 2 days when I got home. I hate comparing food to drugs but while some call it ‘cowboy candy’, I’d say ‘cowboy crack’ would be more appropriate. Girl’s canning game is strong.
So when I heard the great news about her book, Not Your Mama’s Canning Book, I was psyched!
Here’s the thing: I’ve never canned a damn thing in my life.
This weirdly feels like I’m back in Catholic school forced into the confessional with the priest (bless me, internet for I have sinned…)
It scares the bejesus out of me and honestly, I’ve never really had the need. I just eat all the things quick enough after making them!
However, Rebecca’s book is FILLED with amazing canning recipes.
From fruits to jams to pickled things to sauces and syrups, it’s literally a mecca for modern day canning.
And it doesn’t stop there, half the book is then equal awesome recipes of what to do with these amazing canned goodies once you make them.
I poured through this book multiple times but just couldn’t get past one of the first recipes I saw, these vanilla fig preserves.
I’m sure it being the height of summer and seeing fresh figs just pop into the market recently had something to do with the draw but it totally pulled me in.
Figs have two harvests each year, although they’re both quite short. One in early summer and one in the fall.
In New York, we tend to really only see them in the stores in the late summer/fall harvest and that’s typically when I buy as many as I possibly can and make things like fig orange oat bread or ricotta almond fig cake if I’m not just eating them by the handful.
You can also make ice cream or frozen yogurt with them like I did in this Goat Cheese Frozen Yogurt with Honey Roasted Figs a few years back.
WHAT TYPE OF FIG TO USE FOR FIG PRESERVES
There are many varieties of figs but the most commonly seen are probably the Adriatic fig, Black Mission figs and Brown Turkey figs.
All three fig types can be used in this homemade fig preserve recipe.
These figs have a pale green/yellow exterior and a bright red/pink center. They’re sometimes also referred to as “white figs”.
Black Mission Figs
Despite the name, these figs are actually more of a deep purple color on the outside with the standard pink flesh middle. They’re also one of the sweetest variety and go very well on cheese platters.
Brown Turkey Figs
This variety has a brownish/purple skin sometimes streaked with green. They are paler on the inside than other figs and noticeably less sweet. They go well in salads or in a dessert where you want a contrast from other sweet flavors.
HOW TO MAKE FIG PRESERVES
The ingredient list is quite simple.
Ingredients You’ll Need:
- chopped figs
- 1 vanilla bean — this is optional, but I love the sweet flavor it imparts on the preserves. You can also use a vanilla substitute if necessary.
- calcium water (mixed according to the directions in Pomona’s Universal Pectin)
- lemon juice
-Add the chopped figs, water, vanilla bean (including seeds) to a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
-Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or slightly longer stirring occasionally to soften the fruit.
-Add the calcium water and lemon juice, stir thoroughly.
-Add the sugar to a mixing bowl and whisk in the pectin powder until it is completely incorporated.
-Bring the fig mixture back to a boil.
-Add the sugar mixture and stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sugar and pectin are fully dissolved.
-Return to a full boil and remove from heat immediately.
-Remove and discard the vanilla bean.
HOW TO CAN THE FIG PRESERVES
Fill the canning jars to within 1/4 inch (6 mm) of headspace and wipe the rims clean.
Center a lid in place and screw a ring to fingertip tightness.
Put the filled jars in a canner filled with boiling water to cover the jars by 2 inches (5 cm). Boil for 10 minutes. Then, using a jar lifter, transfer the jars from the water to a clean dish towel or wire rack.
Let cool completely.
Remove the rings, wipe clean, label the jars and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
Once a jar is opened, it is good for about 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
HOW TO USE FIG PRESERVES
What I love best about fig preserves is the versatility.
From a simple slather on some bread to being paired with cheese (I need to buy a chunk of manchego stat!) on an appetizer spread, to dolloping in some yogurt or oatmeal (they’d be SO good on these sweet potato oats!), there are just so many amazing ways to use these preserves. The most decadent way to enjoy fig preserves though is to use it in a baked brie with jam recipe.
Rebecca gives two recipes for the fig preserves in the book – an antipasto plate like none other and this fig and pig open-faced sandwich that Brandy made.
FIG PRESERVES VS. FIG JAM
With all those great uses, I didn’t even bother going through the actual canning steps for the fig preserves, I actually made a quick fig spread (or jam) instead.
I just cooked the mixture down in the pot (I omitted the pectin and calcium water and reduced sugar by half) until thickened because I knew this would be gobbled up in days.
The process is very similar to this honey sweetened rhubarb fig jam Amanda makes. Hers uses fresh rhubarb and dried figs and is beyond delicious!
It’s also almost exactly how I make my persimmon jam. Except there’s no added sugar whatsoever in that recipe as persimmons are so deliciously sweet as is!
If I work up the actual courage though, it would be a great recipe to break my canning virginity.
Being able to open a jar of these fig preserves come January might actually make me forget how much I hate life in the middle of a New York winter.
Vanilla Fig Preserves
- Add the chopped figs, water, vanilla bean and its seeds to a large, non-reactive saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or slightly longer depending on how ripe your figs are, stirring occasionally to soften the fruit. Add the calcium water and lemon juice, stir thoroughly.
- Measure the sugar into a mixing bowl and whisk in the pectin powder until it is completely incorporated and even in color.
- Bring the fig mixture back to a boil. Add the sugar mixture and stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sugar and pectin are fully dissolved. Return to a full boil and remove from heat immediately. Remove and discard the vanilla bean.
- Fill the jars to within 1/4 inch (6 mm) of headspace. Wipe rims clean. Center a lid in place and screw a ring to fingertip tightness or fix clamps in place. Put filled jars in a canner filled with boiling water to cover the jars by 2 inches (5 cm). Boil for 10 minutes, then, using a jar lifter, transfer the jars from the water to a clean dish towel or wire rack. Let cool completely. Remove the rings, wipe clean, label the jars and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. Once a jar is opened, it is good for about 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.