Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fig Preserves or Figs Yum Yum

   It's 'bout that time. All around town the Brown Turkey figs are starting to drip with that sticky sweet goodness. Go get your pickin' party together and head on over to your favorite fig tree. Mine just happens to be this gigantic tree in The Daughter's front yard. It's a beauty. Over 10 feet tall and 14 feet wide and this year, thanks to all that rain, loaded with figs. The birds love 'em, the neighbors love 'em and so do folks just passing by. The tree hangs over the sidewalk in an open invitation to share. That's why we call this fig tree "The Giving Tree." So if you happen to be in the neighborhood, just help yourself.

   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!  
       Here's a picture of Little One enjoying the fruit of The Baby Sister's labor of love...Figs Yum Yum!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Sweet Love Part II

 Before we head to the reception, I had to share a few more pictures from the church. Here's the new Mr. and Mrs.
The Groom's immediate family
 The Bride's immediate family
 Don't you agree that one of the best things about a wedding is the celebration afterward? 
After the eleven o'clock ceremony the wedding party, a few close friends and out-of-town guests adjourned to Belle Meade Club for a marvelous luncheon. Guests sipped on the Club's fruit tea or their choice of Bloody Mary's and mimosas, followed by a summer luncheon plate of chilled shrimp and chicken salads, fresh fruit, rolls, and pecan sticky buns. However, the piece de resistance was the sour cream pound cake layered with caramel frosting by the inimitable LeLand Riggin of Dessert Designs

 Guest Book

Here are a few pictures from the dinner the night before the wedding,
 hosted by the Groom's sister and her husband

A Sweet Love Between These Two

    Neither were actively looking for another life partner. After debating and discussing his phone call with family and dear friends, she agreed to go out with him as a "friend." He wanted the same. The parameters of the relationship were clearly delineated for these two mature adults. Companionship, movies, nice dinners, concerts, walks, long conversations. Very safe and with no strings attached. Sounds good, right?
     Then something began to happen. She made him laugh. He made her laugh. She began to feel at ease with him and to look forward to their times together. He was like an open book, sharing the sorrows and joys that had made him the man he is today. She began to experience a freedom and a joy she had not known in a long time. She found herself smiling every time she thought of him. The worry lines around her face began to disappear. She seemed almost carefree. She talked to her pastor. She talked to her children. She talked to her friends. She didn't want any secrets, but it was obvious what was happening.
     He was smitten. And so was she. But she wanted to take it slowly. No rush to the altar here. Just slow and steady. He listened and agreed. In the meantime he got to know her children and to adore her grandchildren. He couldn't wait for her to meet his own children. His family is small. Ours is large and raucous by comparison. I saw his head swivel in astonishment a few times at our large, noisy, robust family gatherings, but he hung in there and took the teasing and questions in stride.
     They came for a quiet dinner at our home. One hour stretched into two, then three. We laughed about our long-standing connection with this man (we have known him for 41 years) and how the years have changed us all. It was relaxing and enjoyable. He was kind and thoughtful to her throughout the evening, and I knew it wasn't an act. The months passed.
     Then one evening he called to ask if he could come by. He sat in our living room and talked for a long time with The Husband and me. We all shed tears and then we prayed together. He had done the same with her children. Nothing required him to come to them and to us to ask for her hand in marriage, but his honor and integrity impelled him. It says a lot.
     On Saturday, these two tied the knot before the Lord and before the most important people in their lives. They were surrounded at the altar by their children and her grandchildren. His minister and her minister each spoke to the couple. One of the pastors talked about forgiveness being the oil of relationships and how wonderful it is to be surprised and delighted by the way God continues to work in our lives.
      I felt the powerful presence of the Lord that day. It was a day bathed in grace and mercy, a day bathed in hope and secured with promises. It was a picture of the way God loves to delight His children.
      No one is naive enough to believe that this marriage will be easy, because if you have been married or are married, you know that every marriage is hard work. Period. It requires commitment and sacrifice every single day. No one is exempt. No one gets off the hook. To love another person well is contrary to our "human" nature. It is only as we walk by faith and daily surrender our own agenda can we begin to live and love sacrificially. We must have that oil the pastor, Todd Jones, was talking about. The oil of forgiveness. It's a good thing that God gives it freely to those who love Him.
       Here's to new beginnings. Here's to my precious sister-in-law and her new husband. May their joy be made full in Christ.
The beautiful Stanford Chapel at First Presbyterian Church

The Bride arrives accompanied by her son and his new bride!
 My lovely sister-in-law
 pictured here with her beautiful granddaughters
The Bride wore a collection of family heirlooms: her maternal grandmother's brooch, her paternal grandmother's watch, her daughter's pearl bracelet, 
and she carried a spray of white roses with an antique handkerchief on top of a Bible given
to her parents on their wedding day by the great-grandmother for whom she was named.
Her earrings and the family crest ring were gifts from the Groom.
 Another picture of the granddaughters...I couldn't resist!
The Bride, her daughter-in-law and daughter
 The Groom

 There was no rehearsal the day before. The Bride and Groom wanted to keep it low key and simple.
Both families gathered at the altar, and the 
Bride came down the aisle accompanied by her grandchildren, daughter, and daughter-in-law.
Here she spies her Groom waiting for her.

 Just before they are pronounced husband and wife!
 The new Mr. and Mrs.!!
 Are they happy or what?!
 More joy!
 Part II to follow with pictures of family and friends!