Figs are connected to divination, fertility, protection and love. One activity was to write a question a leaf and allow it to dry. If the leaf dried quickly the answer was “no”. Slowly would mean a “yes”.
The word sycophant today means a flatterer whose intention is to maintain/gain influence. The word is however apparently sourced in the ancient Greek fig trade, where sukon meant fig and sukophantēs was said to be a whistleblower on someone illegally exporting figs from Athens.
One of the lovely things about living in an agricultural area is the generous sharing that happens, especially at this time of the year. Three rows of blueberry bushes, too short to be harvested by machine, were gifted to the community over the last few weeks and yesterday a friend showed up with absolutely ripe green gage plums and fresh from the tree green figs. There was no extra space in the fridge so I decided to get a start on some Christmas gift making.
You will need:
4 cups fresh figs, washed and quartered
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup red wine
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2tsp. whole cloves
3 star anise
2 tsp. orange zest
In a large, heavy sauce pan, combine the figs, zest, sugar, and wine.
Add in the bag of spices and the cinnamon sticks, bringing the mixture to a boil, slowly. You can just see the cloth on top of the sugar in the picture to the left.
In the beginning there will be enough moisture that the jam does not need to be continually attended but as the time goes on and the mixture becomes thicker there is a greater possibility that the bottom section will burn if left alone.
I used an immersion blender to chop up the skins after about 20 minutes of simmering. ( Taking the bag of spices and cinnamon sticks out first and returning them to the jam after it was smooth. ) Most skis will soften on their own but the blender helps move things along.
It will however spit so choosing a pot with high sides is helpful.
The wider the bottom of the pot the quicker the jam will thicken as it has more direct heat being applied to it. My pot was only 1/4 full and I was still wiping off counter tops and toes.
In the last five minutes be sure to keep your attention on stirring so as not to burn the jam.
Stir in lemon juice and remove from the heat.
Remove the bag of spices and cinnamon sticks. You can see it dripping in the picture to the right. Transfer the jam to hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ head space. Process for 10 minutes in boiling water bath.
The jam can absolutely be used on toast but if thinking outside the box, try it with a tangy cheese and crackers. Additionally, it can be used on a sandwich with shaved ham or similar meat and a little mustard and mayonnaise.
This recipe produced four small jars that will go well with some local aged cheese for winter solstice or any other gift giving occasion.
There is a interesting relationship between certain wasps and fig trees. If you would like to know more, check out this link. http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160429-a-tale-of-loyalty-and-betrayal-starring-figs-and-wasps
Alternate and additional spices might include cardamon pods, whole black peppers or vanilla pods if you feel like experimenting.