Glorious Fig Jam

Last week I received an email from the lovely Michelle, to say that she had available some fresh and delicious Adam’s figs, both first grade (i.e. posh) and third grade (i.e. very soft and not so pretty) figs which could be used to make jam.  Let’s just say that that email was the start of what one might call “Sam’s Ode to Figs” and over the next few posts I will share what I made with these lovelies.

Figs have such a regal air about them, probably all that “we were loved by Cleopatra, and have been around since Genesis” thing that they have going on, so I knew I ought to do something special with them.  While I was brooding over it I decided to put my mind to making the jam first.  My very first attempt at jam making, you should probably know that, which is what a more practical Sylvia might have done I think…

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
Sylvia Plath; The Bell Jar

Tangent I know, but doesn’t she just have a way with words?

Anyway back to the jam.  To start I scoured about a fifty recipes for fig jam.  Some said that it was never a good idea to make more than 6 cups worth of fruit into jam at a time.  I had about ten cups and I was going with that, because I thought that was just a very silly thing to say.

Secondly, some said to peel the figs and others said a good wash was all that was needed.  I thought it best to ask jam maker extraordinaire Ouma (not mine, but we pretend) for her advice.  Ouma said to peel the figs.  I had 2kgs of figs.  Ouma said to peel the figs.  I did not have two hours to spare.  Ouma said to peel the figs.  I washed them.
Some of the recipes said to stand the figs in the sugar overnight and some skipped this step altogether.  I did commit to macerating the fruit in the sugar, ginger and lemon overnight as I thought I had already used up my quota of shortcuts for this jam, and I liked telling the kiddos that I was macerating fruit.  It made me sound ever so knowledgeable on jam, and also on big words.
Right, so the next day was cook the jam day.  Handsome woke up with raging tonsillitis.  The next step was to slowly bring my fruit in all its delectable syrup to the boil and VIGILANTLY watch it for one to two hours until it thickened into jam.  Handsome woke up with raging tonsillitis.  I bombed the whole lot into my slow cooker on high for one hundred gazillion hours.  Actually it was just a couple, but it worked, and I made jam.  Beautiful, sweet, gorgeous jam.  So proud.
The final step of jam making is to bottle the jam.  I am not Ouma se Kombuis enough to do it properly, so what I did do was wash the jars on super high in the dishwasher and I boiled the lids.  Considering the jars now sterilized I bottled the jam while the jars were still hot, taking care not to touch the inside of the jars or lids, sealed them and called it a day.
So if this sounds like something even you could do, and you are lucky enough to get enough figs for a jam, I say do it!


What you need

2kg ripe figs, stems removed, chopped
1 kg sugar
1 lemon, cut into slices
2 cm piece of ginger peeled and diced.
1 vanilla bean, sliced
  1. Layer the figs with the sugar, lemons slices and ginger in a large bowl.
  2. Cover and leave to stand overnight.
  3. Remove the lemon slices.
  4. Place the figs and syrup together with the scraped vanilla seeds into a slow cooker on high.
  5. Cook for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally and removing any foam that may come to the surface.
  6. Remove the lid of the slow cooker and continue to cook for another hour or so, until the jam is thickened.  The syrup will hold its shape on a plate when done.
  7. Use a hand blender to mash the jam gently, not all the way through as it is nice for the jam to have a bit of texture.
  8. Transfer into sterilized jars.

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