What’s more exciting than picking that first ripe fig of the season off your tree? Picking an entire basketful of ripe, juicy figs!
And a basketful is enough to make a small batch of one of my all-time favorite preserves — balsamic fig jam spiced with whole black peppercorns.
What makes this jam so different from my other jams is the balanced blend of sweet and savory. It’s delicious smeared on a traditional slice of toast, but mouth-watering served with a wedge of creamy goat cheese (or bleu cheese, another favorite pairing) on top of crostini. So you can enjoy it in the morning for breakfast, and then again in the evening for cocktail hour!
Balsamic Fig Jam With Black Peppercorn
Makes 4 half-pints
20 medium to large figs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
Destem and coarsely chop your figs. The amount of fruit should yield about 6 cups of chopped figs.
(Some food for thought: If you picked your figs fresh off a tree, you may have noticed milky white fluid oozing from the stems. That’s called fig latex, and certain people have contact allergies to a potent, protein-digesting enzyme in the latex called ficin. In the olden days, ficin was extracted from figs to heal wounds and treat a variety of skin ailments and inflammation. It’s still used as a folk remedy in some parts of the world. But ficin dermatitis does not correlate a food allergy to figs themselves — thank goodness. When I harvest figs, my arms will itch from brushing up against the fig leaves and latex, but I can still eat figs by the handful!)
Bundle the black peppercorns into a cheesecloth satchel. (You can also use a jelly bag, tea bag, muslin or anything similar.) I tie a simple double knot at the top to keep the peppercorns from falling out.
Combine the figs, sugar, peppercorn satchel, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice in a large pot. Bring the mixture to a full boil, stirring frequently to prevent the figs from sticking and burning. They will start to caramelize as they break down.
Keep the mixture at a consistent boiling point where it cannot be stirred down. Boil until the volume reduces by almost half and the mixture is a thick, jammy texture. A candy thermometer inserted into the jam should read 220°F. On my stovetop over medium-high heat, this took about 30 minutes of constant boiling and stirring to achieve.
Remove the pot from heat and discard the peppercorn satchel. Ladle the jam into hot, clean jars, seal with lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
If you can part with any of your homemade jam… these make very fancy-sounding, elegant and delicious gifts! Especially if you throw in a wedge of fromage and a thin baguette as well!
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