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FIGS

(And old foodways)

Chef Linda Weiss
Photograph Anne K Moore

I can’t think of figs without thinking of the fig trees behind the old Victorian home of my grandparents in Alabama. Of course these were the best figs in all the world, especially when my grandfather and I would eat the ripe figs together directly from the tree.

My grandmother made fig preserves and my sister and I ate them as snacks with saltine crackers, down under the honeysuckle bushes that had made an arbor, at Miss Mary Lou Taylor’s house.  I can’t imagine how many knives might have been left under the honeysuckles because if we got a jar of preserves we also took a knife to spread them with, and I don’t really remember bringing any of them back.

I still eat fig preserves and crackers and find them almost as delicious as “the old days”.

We’ve given you fig recipes such as fresh figs with watermelon, for a salad and sautéed figs with honey yogurt for brunch.  So if you missed those just click on the links above or go to the Articles page on the website and look up the recipes. In the meantime, here are three new recipes for you to try if you happen to be so lucky as to have a fig tree. Oh my, wish I did. If you need help picking figs, please let me know, I‘d be most happy to help you take them off the tree- and eat them!

Old Fashioned Fig Preserves

6 lb figs

1 cup baking soda

Boiling water

6 cups sugar

Lemon (optional)

Sprinkle firm ripe figs with 1 cup baking soda. Cover with boiling water. Let stand 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in two baths of clean cold water. In a large glass container, alternate a layer of figs and a layer of sugar until all figs and sugar are used. The top layer will be sugar. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Cook uncovered in a thick bottom boiler until figs are the desired texture and sirup is the desired consistency. Pack hot into canning jars or let stand overnight at room temperature to let plump. Next morning pack cold figs in warm, pint standard canning jars. Cover figs with sirup to within ½-inch of the top. At this time slide a lemon slice down the side of the jar with a sterilized fork or knife. Clean rims and adjust jars lids and bands. Process in a boiling water bath canner (212º)-cold preserves for 15 minutes and hot preserves for 10 minutes. Note: Follow directions on your canning jars about clean jars. Also, note that the canning time starts when water in the canner comes to a rolling boil. Make sure jars, lids and equipment are sterilized according to equipment instructions.  This is an old recipe from Food Preservation in Alabama and does not give the amount of preserves this recipe will make so I would have several jars ready. I’d say roughly about 7 pints.

Fig Preserve Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

In my late mother’s recipe file there was a recipe for Fig Preserve Cake. You can use the fig preserves to make it. This cake is great in summer and even better to make for the holidays as a gift. Good for breakfast too.

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup fig preserves

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)

Brown sugar glaze

Combine first 8 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and eggs, beating well with mixer.

Add buttermilk and vanilla, beating in well. Stir in the preserves and nuts. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 350º for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Place on a serving plate. Pour glaze over the cake.

Brown Sugar Glaze

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup milk

Combine all ingredients in a small Dutch oven or other heavy saucepan.
Bring to a full boil and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Let cool until slightly thicker and pour over fig cake.

Buttermilk Biscuits with Country Ham and Figs

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

2/3 cup buttermilk

Fresh figs

Country ham, sliced thin to fit into biscuit

Dijon mustard

Mix flour, salt, baking powder, soda and sugar together. With two knives or a pastry blender cut in the vegetable shortening until the mixture resembles peas. Add the buttermilk all at once and mix until it is just blended. Roll the dough to a thickness of 1/2-inch and cut the biscuits with a cutter small enough to make 16 biscuits. Place the biscuits close together on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 425º for 10 plus minutes or until the biscuits are light brown.

When cool enough to handle, open the biscuits and put butter on inside top and bottom of the biscuits.

Then do the same with the mustard, spreading lightly. Put a small piece of thinly sliced country ham on the biscuit to fit, and then put a slice of fig on top.

This is a rendition of an old recipe from An Apple a Day in Illinois.

Visit Chef Linda at her website:  www.cheflindaweiss.com

and her blog:  www.lindaallaboutfood.blogspot.com

Linda’s first book, Memories From Home, Cooking with Family & Friends

is available at Amazon.com or at her website.

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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