So, I’ve been spending a lot of time at my mother’s recently and she has a big, beautiful fig tree. Actually, she has two different fig trees and they were both bearing fruit so I decided to try my hand at canning fig preserves, or jelly.
First, I had to learn the difference between preserves and jam. Simply enough, preserves refer to a large category of food that is made to last a long time, including jams and jelly. Generally, the preserves have chunks of fruit while the jam is smashed up into a smoother consistency.
I took a large plastic bowl from Mother’s kitchen and headed outside to pick the figs. It was a hot day near the St. John’s River so I took my time: pick three, eat one; pick four, eat one more. By the time I returned to air conditioned comfort I was sticky and stuffed!
As it turns out, it takes a lot of time to make preserves. I wanted to make them without the use of pectin, a thickening agent, so I had to cook the fruit for a long time. In hind sight, this worked well because it gave me time to sterilize the canning jars, too.
Here is my recipe:
I gently washed and rinsed the figs in cold water, cutting off the stems and any ugly or tough skin which left me with about 12 cups of figs.
To me, jams and preserves are very sweet, so I chose to add only six cups of sugar to the figs in a very large, non-stick stock pot. Most recipes call for the use of equal parts sugar to figs, or a 2 to one ratio. I used 1 part sugar to 2 parts fruit and it was perfect for me, but you can always add more sugar if desired.
Adding only enough water to dissolve the sugar, I set the stove to a low setting, giving the mixture a long, slow boil.
I let the figs cook for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, and mashing up the fruit as it cooked.
After about one hour, I added 1/2 cup of bottled lemon juice, because everything on the internet said it was a good idea to add it – something to do with keeping the canned, end-product safe to eat.
To see if your preserves are ready to can, use a metal spoon and a take a sample of your fruit mixture. If it cools to the consistency you desire after about one minute of cooling, it is ready to can.
When the figs were ready, I poured them in to the sterile jars and and followed the directions to home boiling water processing baths. There were a lot of different directions for this on the internet, so I went with the directions from a reputable university’s website based on the size of my jars and the equipment I had available at the time.
How did they come out? Amazing! i may have a knack for this and I do believe I see more canning in my future… maybe pickles will be next on the list.