Balsamic fig jam with black peppercorn
Canning, Freezing & More Preserving, Recipes

Balsamic Fig Jam With Black Peppercorn

What’s more exciting than picking that first ripe fig of the season off your tree? Picking an entire basketful of ripe, juicy figs!

Basketful of ripe 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 served with goat cheese on crostini

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.

Destem and coarsely chop figs

Ripe figs

Coarsely 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.

Whole black peppercorns

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.

Combine figs, sugar, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and peppercorns in a large pot

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.

Boil and stir the mixture until the mixture is thickened to a jammy consistency

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.

Ladle jam into hot sterilized jars

Ladle jam into hot sterilized jars

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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  • Hope

    Do you think this will be fine if I omit the lemon juice? 🙂 Or any suggestion for substitute?

    • Hope

      husband said there was lemon juice in the fridge, but there’s only lime juice! doh!

    • The lemon juice is there to provide acidity for safe canning. But, you can omit it if you plan to eat the jam right away; just refrigerate the jars right after you fill them (and skip the canning).

  • Richard in Cyprus

    Tried it and loved it. We have a huge surplus of figs at the moment and I’ve been out to buy extra jars!

    • A surplus of figs is always a good thing!

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  • Leslie

    I was wondering why it needs to reach 220°. By the time mine reached that, it was too thick. I’d like to try it again if I can find more figs. Mine seemed the right consistency around 200°. Any thoughts? Thanks.

    • 220° (at sea level) is the ideal set point for jam. It ensures that your jam won’t be runny when it’s completely cooled. If you find yours is thick enough at lower temps, then you don’t need to wait for the mixture to reach 220°.

  • Jeremy Heyl

    Walking thru an Italian grocery store over the weekend I bought a couple flats of figs when I remembered seeing this- just finished canning 5 1/2 pt jars- the leftover I’m serving with cheese and crusty bread tonight. Thanks for sharing this!

    • I’m jealous of all your freshly made jam! 🙂

  • Melissa

    Yum! Just made a really small batch (2 cups of chopped figs from my very young tree) and it’s great! Thanks for the recipe!

    • My figs just started ripening over here, and I’m excited to make a new batch this season!

  • Darrin Parkin

    Best thing I have ever made! Amazing recipe!

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  • Micha

    The one thing I have plenty of is figs! I will have to try this recipe. Any tips on keeping the birds away? I have a persimmon and fig tree and the birds always get to them before it do.

    • Birds and Japanese beetles love my figs, but luckily they tend to eat the ones that I can’t reach, so there’s still plenty on the tree left for me.

      I’ve heard you can deter birds by hanging plastic bags or CDs from a branch (I guess they don’t like the noise or the glare?). If I find Japanese beetles early in the morning when they’re still lethargic, I knock them down into a bucket and feed them to my chickens!

  • Kgelormino

    Wow -I just made this jam. I usually make a spiced fig jam, but this one has just became my favorite! I only made a small batch but will be making more soon. The rest of my figs will be ready for picking in a few day. Thank you for this amazing recipe!

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  • OMG this looks amazing. Have plenty of figs frozen from the season. I need to get on this.

    • Save some for a second recipe I’ll be posting next week – spiced fig jam with ginger!

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