Chunky Fig and Orange Jam
Every year in late summer, my friend Tony invites me to have dinner with him under the fig tree in his Brooklyn backyard. The massive tree was planted long ago by his Sicilian grandfather and has withstood more than 70 years of the freezing winters we can sometimes have here in New York City. Today, the fig tree is the pride and joy of Tony and his whole family and the envy of all of his friends. Not only is the tree beautiful to see, most years it produces masses of luscious ripe fruit. This year’s crop was exceptionally good and one evening 6 friends sat under the tree eating the sweet figs wrapped in prosciutto with glasses of sparkling rosé Faive by Nino Franco, a producer in the Veneto region of Italy. A perfect combination, and as my friend, cookbook author Marie Simmons would say, we were in Fig Heaven http://www.mariesimmons.com/recipes/fig_heaven.html
Tony sent me home with a bag filled with plump violet-colored figs which I added to the box of blue-black Mission figs I had purchased the day before. I snipped off the stems, cut them in quarters and cooked them with sugar until the juices were thick and syrupy. I added fresh lemon juice and orange zest to heighten the fig flavor and when it cooled I had several containers of chunky sweet jam. It’s wonderful on yogurt, or whole wheat toast with cream cheese or butter, or as a condiment for a zesty cheese like gorgonzola. By the way, I did not bother to put the jam through the canning process since I only made a small batch. It will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks or in the freezer for at least 6 months. Not that I expect it to last that long. The recipe follows.
Melissa Clark of The New York Times wrote an article about Brooklyn’s fig trees, including Tony’s, with a quote from me about the fig tree tradition in Brooklyn and it’s significance for Italian immigrants. Here is a link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/29/dining/in-brooklyn-an-abundance-of-fig-trees.html?_r=2&hpw.
Chunky Fig and Orange Jam
Makes 2 8-ounce containers
1 pound ripe fresh figs, stemmed
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Cut the figs into quarters. Place them in a saucepan with the sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the juices begin to simmer. As the figs soften, crush them slightly with a potato masher or sturdy wire whisk. After about 20 minutes, skim off the foam that rises to the surface. Cook until the juices thicken slightly and are reduced, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the stove. Stir in the lemon juice and orange zest. Spoon the jam into jars or plastic freezer containers and cool completely. Cover and store in the refrigerator up to 3 weeks or in the freezer up to 3 months.
© 2012 by Michele Scicolone