It’s been a big year for figs. After a couple of years of glutting early, after the mild summer this year they were back to their full autumn glory.
We saw the bats come in for a treat as evening settled, and heard the happy chatter of parrots during the day, but none of it put much of a dent in the sheer weight of hundreds upon hundreds of these delicious purple globes.
After handing them out to friends by the bucketload, we still had plenty to eat and enjoy. More than we could possibly get through. We had some fig ice cream (see my fab recipe here) and other treats, along with fresh fruit every breakfast.
And still they came.
This year I added a couple of extra ideas.
I found a lot of conflicting information online on this topic. I’ve done my best with it and they worked out well, though I had no success at all with whole figs.
Blanche your figs (whole) in a bowl boiling water for about 30 seconds – roll them around in it. It removes any of the sticky sap and dirt, and improves the way the outer skin responds to drying.
- I cut away the stem and any thicker bits of white flesh near the stem. Then cut them in half lengthways and lay them out on the shelves of your dehydrator, not touching each other.
- I tried a number of different temperature settings and timing and this is what worked for me. For slightly softer dried figs (similar to semi-dried tomatoes), for use fairly soon, I dried them at 60C for 18 hours. These are still a very pretty red. For well dried figs that should last well for many months, I started with 6 hours at 65C, and then continued with another 12 hours at 60C. These are darker and browner.
Once you’ve dried them, put them in the freezer for four hours to make sure there are no bugs or larvae in them that could turn into creepy crawlies. Since I pack my dried fruit with rice to absorb any moisture, I also put the rice in the freezer with the figs. Just to make sure.
Fig and apple paste/jam
I don’t generally make fig jam. It’s not my favourite, and I generally find I get enough as a swap from people who’ve taken big lots of figs away.
This is something a bit different. Depending on how far you take it, it becomes more like quince paste – a condiment to serve with cheese. It works well, and I’ve also used it like a jam as well, just for fun.
- I started with a large bowlful of figs, stems trimmed off and any thick white flesh trimmed off. Then chop them into small pieces.
I had half a dozen small/medium apples of various types, which I peeled, cored and chopped. Aim for more fig than apple.
- Put this in a big saucepan with the figs and a small amount of water.
- Cook about half an hour, then let cool a little.
- Put back in the saucepan with an equal volume of sugar (two cups of fruit to two cups of sugar) and cook gently without a lid for at least 3 hours. You’ll need to stir occasionally. Every half hour does at the start, but towards the end you’ll need to stir more often.
- When it’s a consistency you’re happy with (it will thicken a little in the jar), place in a sterilised jar and seal.
When I did some research, vodka, vanilla and figs seems to be quite a popular blend, so this seemed worth
a try. It’s been a week or so since I packed these, and it’s tasting pretty good, though I’m going to add just a little sugar to one of the jars to see what that does. If I did it again, I’d probably use a little less vanilla. But it’s easily to tell already that this would be pretty spectacular as a martini.
I’ve done this two ways. I did a couple of jars with the smallest figs I had, whole. And I did some using some of the bigger figs sliced.
The only other issue that’s come up is that the alcohol bleaches the pretty colour of the figs.
- Clean the figs and then pack the small figs or slices into a jar. Slide in a split-open piece of vanilla pod.
- Fill to the top with vodka.
- Use a plastic mesh or similar to keep the fruit below the surface of the liquid.
- Put aside for some months somewhere dark.
- Drink and/or eat.