• Mystery Fig Jam

    fjamWhile gardening tends to require some attention to detail, sometimes it is simply best to roll with things. And our figs are a good example. A few years ago we had a Black Mission Fig Tree put into the orchard. We cheated a bit and bought a tree that was a few years old and already a few feet high (hey, we wanted figs sooner, rather than later). But that tree didn’t last long, the gophers ate the entire root ball and the tree literally fell over. Nature often gets the last laugh, and your best plans are laid to waste.

    fjam1fjam2But that doesn’t mean we stopped fighting. We got another fig tree, wrapped the root and planting area with wire mesh and planted again (insert Monty Python’s Holy Grail “Swamp Castle” joke here). And this time we beat the gophers…..sweet! Oh, except the figs were green, not black, and now we have no idea what they are. Kadota? Adriatic? Greek Royal? Who knows….we just know they ain’t Black Mission. Ah, nature.

    fjam3Regardless, we got a decent spring crop and an excellent fall crop of these green figs. When ripe, the figs are soft on the outside and have beautiful bright red flesh. And they taste great, too. The only problem is that the figs don’t keep well. You need to eat them quick. And we do. But when you have a couple hundred figs, it is time to make some jam.

    fjam4fjam5fjam6And fig jam is a treat (even if it isn’t the most attractive thing going). It works simply on toast, but the rich sweetness is an excellent foil for cheeses and charcuterie. In fact, if you want a perfect sandwich, make a good grilled ham and sharp cheddar sandwich with fig jam. A perfect dish.

    fjam7fjam9fjam10The recipe we use is adapted from the Blue Chair Cookbook, one of our favorites. It is just figs with sugar and lemon juice and a splash of Yellow Chartreuse and Benedictine for herbal notes. Being the cocktail nerds “cocktailians” we are, we actually have Chartreuse and Benedictine, but If you don’t have them, ignore or use some candied ginger (or go buy some and mix some drinks). The only bummer with this recipe is that it takes a while. Nothing really hard here, it is just that you are making jam and need to do some boiling, reducing, stirring, etc. But since the figs go bad quickly, this is your best option if you grow or buy a lot of them.  Now if we could just figure out what kind of figs they are…

    fjam11Fig Jam:

    (Adapted from The Blue Chair Cookbook)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • You can use any ripe, thin-skinned green figs here, but Adriatic are suggested. Kadota or Greek Royal also work.
    • If you have thicker-skinned figs, you want to precook the fig slivers in a little simmering water until tender, then use as directed.

    What You Get: Delightfully rich and sweet jam that works with sweet or savory dishes. A way to use your ripe figs.

    What You Need: A jamming setup. What? You don’t have one? Well, now is the time…

    How Long? Forever. Well, not quite. But free up a few hours.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 1/2 pounds plus 3 pounds Adriatic figs, stemmed
    • 3 pounds white sugar
    • 6 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 2 ounces yellow Chartreuse
    • A few drops of Benedictine

    Assemble:

    1. Place 5 metal spoons on a plate and put them in your freezer for jam testing.
    2. Slice 2 1/2 pounds of the figs into 6ths or 8ths, depending on their size. Place the fig slivers in a large heatproof mixing bowl, add the sugar and mix. Let the mixture macerate while you make the rest of the recipe.
    3. Place the remaining 3 pounds of figs in a Stainless steel pot or kettle big enough to hold them in one layer. Add cold water up to 1/2 inch depth in the pot. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir and decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook another 5 minutes. Then, using a potato masher, crush the figs to release their juices. Stir, cover, and cook for another 20-30 minutes until the figs are mushy and translucent. Stir often to avoid any burning on the bottom of the pan.
    4. When the figs are done, put them through the a food mill with the finest setting and add to the slivered figs and sugar. Add anything that does not go through the food mill into the mixture as well, breaking up any large chunks. Stir everything together to dissolve the sugar, then add the lemon juice, Chartreuse and Benedictine. Transfer the mixture to a large nonreactive pot or kettle.
    5. Bring the jam to a boil over high heat, stirring regularly with a heatproof spatula. When the jam boils, lower to an active simmer. Simmer 7 more minutes and then mash again with the potato masher. Continue cooking another 25 minutes, stirring regularly and lowering heat of the jam starts to stick.
    6. Test the jam for doneness on the frozen spoons. Place the jam on a spoon, put it back in the freezer for 3-4 minutes, and then tilt the spoon. If the jam is gloppy and runs slowly, it’s done. If runny, cook a few more minutes and repeat the test.
    7. When done, pour the jam into sterilized containers and process per your manufacturer’s instructions (although we suggest processing in the oven, it’s much easier).
  • The Viveka Cocktail And Homemade Limoncello

    viv

    The Viveka Cocktail.

    Many months ago we asked for our readers to guess the location of a photo we took in Kauai. The winner would get a cocktail named after them. The winner was our friend Viveka from My Guilty Pleasures, a blog about life with all it’s humor, delights, food and travel. It is also a blog about friendship. Viveka seems to collect friends, both in the physical and virtual world, at a very steady clip. She has a big, warm, generous heart.

    viv4viv5viv6Viveka is also patient. Because once she won our little contest, we knew we had to use a special homemade ingredient in her cocktail; limoncello. The only problem was that limoncello, while easy to make, takes a while. Like a few months. But we warned Viveka of the impending wait. And then we waited. And waited. But finally the wait is over.

    viv7Limoncello is basically a liqueur of lemon zest (with as little white pith as possible) soaked in grain alcohol (or strong vodka), strained and then sweetened with sugar syrup. You get a sweet, lemony liqueur without any sour notes. It’s good stuff. While you can make limoncello in just a few days, an infusion of 30-45 days is generally considered the best method. The you need to strain and filter the zest from the very-strong booze and add some simple syrup to get to about 60 proof and age it again for another 45 days (most people shorten this step). But since we are making cocktails, we took a slightly different path.

    viv3viv2Our one issue with limoncello in cocktails is that it is a bit sweet and not strong enough to lead a cocktail. It is good as an accent, but we thought it could fully replace gin or vodka if our limoncello was stronger and dryer. So rather than use a mix of 50% or more simple syrup, we went with about 35-40% syrup. And since we were using 135 proof Everclear as our base, we ended up at about 90-100 proof. The limoncello is a bit strong on its own, but has the juice to carry a cocktail and gives a slight warming feel as you drink it. Not too hot or boozy, but you know it’s there.

    viv8And that was exactly what we wanted for our special cocktail. Our friend Viveka is not a fan of dark booze like rum or whiskey, so we wanted to use a “clear” booze. We do enough gin drinks around here, so that was out. And since Viveka is from Scandinavia, we figured she knows her vodka. Boozy limoncello seemed liked a good fit. And we even had a recipe in mind.

    viv9The Viveka combines, boozy limoncello, Cointreau, lemon juice and muddled raspberries (or raspberry syrup, if you must). The drink is a riff on the 1934 Cosmopolitan (an older,  lesser-known- but IMHO better- version of the Cosmo), with the boozy limoncello replacing gin and fresh raspberries rather than syrup. (If using lower-proof limoncello, just add 1/2 oz. good vodka and a touch more lemon juice). What you get is a bright lemon sip that isn’t particularly sour, mixed with sweet orange and raspberry notes that almost seem to dance around. On the finish you get a nice warm kick from the limoncello. This drink has a warm heart, just like Viveka…..Here you go Wivi!

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