Figs are one of the simple pleasures of early fall. Their season in the Northeast is relatively short – if you blink, you may miss the small, plump fruits heaped into green cardboard containers at your farmer’s market or grocery store. You may be able to find a relatively local crop, but chances are that they came from the west coast. Figs grow very well in drier climates like southern California as they are a crop that made their way from Asia over centuries. I feel that Philadelphians aren’t very familiar with these purple-y black gems. The black Mission figs are the most common in the Philadelphia area and you’re bound to find them at DiBruno Bros and Whole Foods beginning in September. People seem bewildered by them – do I just eat them or put them in something? I like to eat figs plain, taking bites out of the fruit as if it is a little apple. I also like crusty bread spread with a soft cheese and sliced figs on top. In the morning, I may add them to my steel cut oats with some local honey. The easiest and most inexpensive way to enjoy figs by far, though, is by picking up some fig jam. Or, making your own!
Lately, I’ve been inclined to spend time creating when I’m feeling down. Sometimes this means that I knit or write, but today I felt like being in the kitchen. This past week has sputtered along with set-backs and disappointments. I pulled Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars off of my shelf to see what I could make. My friend, M, had recently hinted that he would be very happy to accept a jar of fig jam so I settled on that particular recipe. I got my large, copper Mauviel preserving pan out and set to work chopping 3 pounds of fruit. The rhythmic, rocking motion of my chef’s knife is soothing and focuses my brain on one and only one thing – not chopping off a finger. It is a welcome distraction from all of the other clutter in my brain. I like Marisa’s canning recipes because you can get everything done, start to finish, in a couple of hours instead of an entire day. I prefer small batch canning because I can whip up 3 or 4 pints of any given recipe which is enough to get me through a season instead of having to be overwhelmed by the dozens of pints that traditional recipes produce. Someday, I will have a pantry lined with rows and rows of preserved foodstuffs, but that’s in the future along with the flock of chickens and small farm I want (another post for another time, perhaps?). For now, I just want something to slather on toast.
Preserving the season’s best produce isn’t the chore that it used to be. I managed to make this 5 pint batch of fig jam while studying Pathophysiology, eating dinner, walking two dogs, and catching up on prime-time season premieres! Start small and make what you like. Soon you’ll have a collection of homemade goodies at the ready for holiday gifts, parties, or even just for spicing up your own breakfast.