Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fig Preserves from the Baby Sister

   One of the things I like best about talking recipes with The Baby Sister is that you immediately realize she spent years as a school teacher. Her explanations are thorough, logical, and clear. I hope I can do her justice.
Fig Preserves A Step by Step Guide or Canning for Dummies!
   Assemble all of your canning tools! You will need the following:
       1. Canning jars with screw lids and seals
       2. A ladle
       3. Canning funnel
       4. 4 quart heavy Dutch Oven
       5. Pound of sugar (you will not use the whole thing)
       6. A jar lifter or an oven mitt
       7. Approximately 4 quarts of figs

A few notes about the canning supplies: My sister uses both 4 ounce and 8 ounce jars. She buys these in bulk from her local Wal-Mart or they can be ordered online. She likes to have a few of both sizes available because you never know how your figs are going to pour out into the jars. Your last jar just might need to be the small size.


You will use the ladle for spooning the liquid in the jars. Spoons just don't work as well. You should trust my sister on this.

If you don't have a plastic jar funnel, you need to march right out and buy one. My sister said that this little $3 tool is indispensable. So go get one NOW. Again, she got hers at Wal-Mart. You can order nicer ones online, but I don't know why you would want to. This one works just fine.
Use a heavy pot for cooking your figs as in heavy like cast iron. Of course, Caphalon works well, or if you are lucky enough to have gourmet cookware, then go for your All-Clad or your Le Creuset. In our family, cast iron does the trick.

My sister uses an oven mitt to lift her jars, but I saw this jar lifter online and thought it looked fun. I probably would not use it enough to justify the purchase, even though it's pretty cheap. Also kitchen storage is always an issue at my house so this would end up at the back of a cupboard where it would only be seen by the mice. So, use the oven mitt.
I hope you are still with me, now we are ready to talk about the figs.
   You will need to put up your figs as close to harvesting them as you can, but if you don't have time right away, simply refrigerate the figs in an open container. DO NOT WASH THEM and DO NOT PEEL THEM. Just remove the stems. Your processing will get hot enough to kill any germs. I guess if they are covered in bird poop, you can wash them, but otherwise leave them alone. 
    Fill your Dutch oven up to the top with figs (usually right about four quarts) and go ahead and pour the sugar over the unwashed figs. The ratio is 1 quart of figs to 1.5 to 2 cups of sugar. That's a lot of sugar, but you can rationalize it by saying this is candy or dessert in a jar.
     Let the figs sit in the sugar overnight or for several hours uncovered.
     When the sugar has settled, you are ready to cook. Start the figs on low, low heat and cook them very slowly. Your figs will take several hours to cook down. 
      At the same time that you begin cooking the figs, put your jars in your dishwasher along with the screw tops and the seals. Run the cycle using the HOT temperature wash and dry cycle. 
      Hopefully the figs will be about ready when the dishwashing cycle is finished and the jars are sterilized and still hot. The figs should be brown and have a good bit of syrup. Don't let them get too dark or they will be more like candied figs instead of the consistency of preserves.
      Remove two or three jars at a time with a hot mitt (or your jar lifter) from the dishwasher and put them on the counter. Put your wide mouth funnel over one jar and using your ladle, fill it with figs until it is 1/4 inch from the top. Then ladle more syrup, completely covering the figs (this is important...if you leave figs uncovered, they will not be good). Leave only 1/8 of an inch from the top of the jar, which is the space needed for the seal to compress. If you have any leftover fig syrup, save it to pour over ice cream!
       As you finish each jar, put the lid seal down and lightly screw the ring to the jar. Do not fully tighten the ring yet. Leave the jars on the counter to cool. Soon you will hear the sound of popping as the jar cools and the seal forms a suction over the jar. This is good. When the jar has cooled to the touch, you may screw the lid on tightly. Four quarts of figs will make roughly 6-9 half-pints of preserves. In case you forget, a half-pint is 8 ounces. Even though my sister taught school, I had to verify this fact on the internet. Don't worry, she did not teach math. Label and date each jar with a Sharpie. Be very, very proud of yourself!
       If you have any jars that do not pop, simply refrigerate them and use them within the month. All of the other jars can go in your pantry. Your fig preserves will be good for a year or so, but I am betting that you won't have any jars left when the next harvest rolls around.
       I can this "Canning for Idiots," because my sister has made it so simple, anyone can do it, including me!  


  1. I love this! (my thanks to "The Baby Sister"). I have an absent neighbor with an unharvested fig tree. It's killing me to walk by it every day and watch those figs without picking them. But you just can't do that without permission, you know? Ah, the injustice of it all. lol

  2. I like to slice a lemon paper thin and slide the slices in with the figs right before ladling them into jars. Sometimes I just use the lemon's pretty.

    Where are you getting your figs? My grandmother had a fig tree, but I've never had luck growing them here. Advice welcome.

  3. To Annabanana...Hello! I'm "the Baby Sister" and my precious grandmother helped me plant my fig tree after 2 unsuccessful attempts. She told me to plant a "brown turkey fig" on the SOUTH side of my house, out of the NORTH wind! I planted mine fairly close to my house so the North wind doesn't hit it! I've had a crop of figs since the 3rd or 4th year after planting. My tree always produces for two weeks, the week around July 4th.


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