Tag Archives: fig jam

Fig Jam

Have I told you that I have a fig tree in my garden? When I moved, I was very excited to see this large specimen that already had lots and lots of fruit, and a few figs that looked as if they were approaching ripeness. Ideas went though my head about figs fresh from the garden, baked figs, figs with cheese….you name it, I was going to make it.

As summer wore on (remember summer?) a few of them got very dark indeed, and a taste test confirmed they were indeed edible. The skin was a little tough, but the seeded red interior was delicious. I relaxed, and though that all they needed was a little time. I shooed away the greedy birds, and tried to bide my time.

After a few weeks, it seemed like I had a haul of figs and could make plans. I wasn’t sure they were the kind of figs that were good for eating (the skin was still a bit tough). But surely they would be fine for that old standby, jam? And who doesn’t like a good pot of fig jam? Dramatic colour, rich flavour and that funny little “pop” of those seeds…

Well, it turns out that the answer is “these figs are sort of okay for jam”. I chopped up the figs, added lots of sugar, boiled away, then tasted the jam. And there it was – that raw “green” flavour from the fig skins. All that hope and patience – all for nothing! Not one to give up on the culinary front, I worked quickly – the lot went through a sieve (so all the pulp and seeds were saved, the offending skins left behind) and a good pinch of cloves and a dash of port went in to boost the flavour. To this day, I am not entirely sure what I have actually managed to make, but I’ll let the jam mature for a while (so the flavour of the cloves can work its magic) and I’ll see what I’ve ended up with. I’m hopeful that the passage of time will be kind, and there is still a thrill of knowing that this jam is made from stuff from my own garden.

You might think that this would be enough to put me off making fig jam, at least for a little while, but of course that was not going to happen. Just after my first batch, ripe black figs started appearing in fruit shops, and I came across a recipe flavoured with rosemary and lemon zest. It looked too good to resist, and as you can see from the results below, I am glad I gave in to the urge.

From the moment I took the figs from the bag I could tell these were of a different class to those from my own garden. Mine were soft-ish, but these seemed almost ready to collapse, and the skin was a deep, silky purple.

This is a very easy way to make jam – the figs just need to be chopped up and cooked with a little water and some sugar. I’ve seen versions that involve either pureeing the figs to get a smooth paste, or pushing the lot through a sieve, but when the figs are properly ripe, this is not necessary. The strips of fig add some texture and I think make it look much more impressive when spread on a piece of bread.

I found the lemon and rosemary worked incredibly well here. The lemon provides just a little bit of freshness and sharpness to cut through the sweetness of the sugar. The rosemary contributes a little bit of fragrance to the jam – think of hot days in a warm climate, and figs and rosemary are two of the things that come to mind. In this case, I boiled a sprig of rosemary with the jam, and added one to each of the pots that I made. Again, I will let this sit for a while, so it will be interesting to find out how it has developed over time.

In the meantime – the other pot has been opened, and I can assure you that it tastes sublime in the morning on a croissant.

To make fig jam (makes 2 pots):

• 8 ripe black figs
• jam sugar with pectin (half the weight of the figs)
• 150ml water
• zest and juice of 1 lemon
• 1 sprig of rosemary

1. Start by sterilising some jam jars(*), and put a plate into the freezer – you’ll need this to test when the jam is set.

2. Rinse the figs. Cut each in half, and slice roughly into thin strips.

3. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan, stir well, and slowly bring to the boil.

4. Reduce the heat and keep the jam on a rolling boil for 10 minutes. After this, start to check for a set every minute or so(**).

5. Once the jam is ready, ladle into the prepared jars (get the stick of rosemary into one of the jars), seal, label and hide it somewhere to enjoy later.

(*) To sterilise jam jars: wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Place upside-down in a cold oven, and heat to 90°C for 15 minutes. Leave in the oven to cool down while you are making the jam . To sterilise the lids, wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse well, place in a saucepan with boiling water for 5 minutes.

(**) To test for the setting point, put a spoonful of the mixture on the icy-cold saucer. Let it cool, then tilt the saucer – if the jam wrinkles, the setting point has been reached.

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Filed under Recipe, Sweet Things

On Location: Oost Pizzeria (Oost, Amsterdam)

This is the last in the recent wave of Dutch-themed post. On my recent trip to the Netherlands, I arrived back late in Amsterdam from a couple of days in the Dutch outback (subsisting mainly on beer and gouda cheese), and thoughts inevitably turned to a decent pizza. We went with our host to a pizzeria in the Oost district of Amsterdam which, in a clear moment of inspiration on the part of the owner, was called Oost.

I am always struck by just how different a neighbourhood restaurants is in other cities as compared to London. Even in good old N16, places are often rammed, loud and you need to book. Other places just don’t seem to be as busy, and I love being able to decide to go somewhere, entering, choosing a table and sitting down. Sounds strange, but living in a city where you can end up fighting strangers for table space, this is a rare treat. Oost is just such a relaxed “easy” place. The menu is pretty straightforward – simple antipasti, half a dozen pasta dishes, a dozen pizzas, and they just seem to get on with what they are trying to do very well.

We went for a selection of crostini (mozzarella/tomato, mushrooms with truffle oil, and goat’s cheese and fig jam) which really hit the spot. I was going to take the mushroom/truffle version, but then decided in the interests of trying new things, the goat’s cheese with fig was the way to go, and frankly I am glad I did. I first had fig jam a few weeks ago on a visit to Brussels fell in love with it, and I am happy to report that I am still in a very meaningful relationship with the candied fruits of ficus carica. This had a light sweetness and freshness that you often do not get when goat’s cheese is coupled with honey. In short, yum.

For the main, it was, of course, a pizza. I went for one with artichoke, goat’s cheese and rocket. I realise that this is actually a phenomenal amount of goat’s cheese in one meal and it was surely a sign that I was not really thinking about what I was doing after spending hours stuck in motorway traffic coming back into Amsterdam, but I happen to love goat’s cheese, so not really an issue. Anyway, the pizza was fab – nice and crispy and with a generous amount of toppings, but not overloaded It was also surprisingly light – I typically ask for less mozzarella on pizzas as they can often be very greasy, but this one was not. All in all, a nice dish. It doesn’t (quite) beat my favourite in London, but as they are clearly not competing, I guess I never have to choose between them.

For dessert, I plumped for the affogato (espresso over vanilla ice-cream). This was nice, but I have had better (yup, we’re back to LondonEats’ favourite pizzeria in Clerkenwell again). My own preference is for very cold ice-cream, so that when the espresso goes over, the ice-cream stays very firm. It is also important that the ice-cream is not too sweet, so that the flavour of the coffee shines alongside the vanilla, rather than just supporting it. The ice-cream was still good (if just a touch softer than I like it), but I appreciated the hazelnut macaroon biscuit with it, which made for a contrasting texture with the ice-cream and coffee.

Would I go again? Definitely. The food was very nice, and if the only weak point was that the dessert was good rather than stellar, I can live with this. The decor is fresh and inviting, the service friendly and, when summer comes, one very impressive looking south-facing terrace. Bring on the sunshine, and I may well be back.

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Filed under Amsterdam, On Location