Although dried figs are available throughout the year, there is nothing like the unique taste and texture of fresh figs. Figs can trace their history back to the earliest of times. They are thought to have been first cultivated in Egypt, spread to ancient Crete and then, subsequently, around the 9th century BC, to ancient Greece, where they became a staple.
Figs were later introduced to other regions of the Mediterranean by ancient conquerors and were brought to the Western Hemisphere by the Spaniards in the early 16th century. In the late 19th century, when Spanish missionaries established a mission in San Diego, California, they also planted fig trees. Those figs turned out to be inferior in quality to ones that were imported from Europe, and it wasn’t until the development of further cultivation techniques in the early 20th century that California was able to grow figs successfully. Today, California remains one of the largest producers of figs in addition to Turkey, Greece, Portugal and Spain.
There are two seasons for domestic fresh figs: the first few weeks in June and then August through October. In the southern US where I live, we are able to grow figs quite successfully and they become plentiful in July. My friend has a very prolific tree and I am the beneficiary of some beautiful figs. I have made several desserts, including a fig pecan tart, wrapped them in prosciutto for an appetizer and made delicious breakfast scones with them.
This is a fabulous jam I have made and want to share with you. I hope you are able to find figs in your area.
Small-Batch Fresh Fig Jam
Makes about 2 ½ cups
- 1 lemon
- 1 orange
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 whole thyme sprigs
- 2 pounds ripe fresh figs, stemmed and quartered
Remove the strips of rind from the lemon and the orange using a vegetable peeler, avoiding the white pith.
Combine the rind strips and the remaining ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan or large Dutch oven.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to medium; and cook 50 minutes or until the mixture thickens, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
To test for doneness, place a small amount of jam on a chilled plate. Tilt the plate and the preserves should move sluggishly. (If testing with a candy thermometer, it should read 220°F.)
Discard the thyme and citrus strips.
Pour into refrigerator or freezer storage jars. Store in the refrigerator for several months or the freezer for six months.