The 2012 local fig season has been erratic. Texas figs are hardy, they have to be. 2011’s early crops were tasty and sweet but the summer heat was devastating to much of the plant life. Even with the early rain this year’s crop was sparse and late. BFF Ann shared from her fig trees but we both agree that while some were tasty others were not as sweet or flavorful.
Picture and Nutritional Value from Specialty Produce
Fresh figs are a good source of vitamin B6, protein, calcium, phosphorus and iron, plus are cholesterol-free, sodium-free and fat-free. A compound found in figs, called benzaldehyde, has been shown to help shrink tumors in some tests.
My two pounds of figs, most likely the last ones for this year, were nicely formed but not so flavorful that you keep popping them in your mouth.
The saying ‘if life hands you lemons then make lemonade’ here translates roughly into ‘if life hands you questionable figs then make preserves’. There are all kinds of elaborate recipes on the internet but I chose the simplest: fruit, sugar, lemon, and water and as usual I tweaked it a bit.
This recipe has less sugar than most but enough to still be sweetly delicious and spreadable. Plus, less sugar means more fruit – that’s healthier isn’t it?
I did not attempt non-nutritive sweeteners because I don’t have enough experience making preserves and with this being the last two pounds of fresh, local figs I was not about to go out on an unexplored limb and ruin them.
Maple syrup would be a tasty and complementary replacement for the sugar and water but I didn’t have enough. My agave nectar was dark and too strong a flavor for these figs – you want the fruit flavor to shine through. I tasted a slice of fig with coconut sugar and it overwhelmed the fruit. Light agave would probably work perfectly for a vegan option.
And eek, no lemons, only limes in the refrigerator. Lemon is optional if your figs are flavorful. But lemon is very complementary to figs, especially ones that need flavor enhancement. So I juiced a lime for the tartness and added a few drops of lemon oil for the lemon flavor. The optional pectin; figs usually contain some pectin but I was not feeling confident. Compromise, we all do it!
Fig Preserves – Homemade, Less Sugar
2 pounds fresh figs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dry fruit pectin (optional, I cheated)
Prepare the figs by washing and gently drying on a clean towel. A 2-quart saucepan is large enough for a batch this size. If you double the recipe use a larger pot.
Trim the stems from the figs. Cut them into pieces even if they are small – there is not enough sugar in this recipe to make whole preserved figs. Put the pieces in the pan and add the remaining ingredients.
Set the pan on the stove and turn on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts, syrup begins to form, and it all begins to simmer. Keep it on simmer and stir it occasionally.
As the figs cook they release a lot of juice so it can take several hours cook down to preserves. Keep the temperature at low simmer because this mixture can easily scorch. Mine cooked down really thick and amber-colored which was a happy improvement over a pot of syrup and multi-hued chunks of fig.
This post is linked to:
Wellness Weekend July 19-23, 2012
at Ricki Heller’s Blog – Diet, Dessert, and Dogs.