Fresh fig – is there a fruit as blissful? Nectarous and succulent, syrupy and sweet, eating a ripe fig off the tree is something akin to pure joy. Last week I went to my uncle and auntie’s farm just out of Perth to pick figs with my dad. Two trees laden with fruit, despite the complete lack of rain in months, welcomed us and we all picked and tasted while we caught up, the odd involuntary groan of delight drifting out from under the shady trees.
On our arrival home a flurry of phone calls were made to my dad’s community of food-swapping friends. People dropped in, picked up their container with such a look of pleasure on their face that it was wonderful to see how a simple act of gathering can make so many people happy. Then we made my dad’s much-loved jam. It’s a simple recipe, and I assume a common one, but it’s perfection and a shadow of anything you can buy except perhaps from country markets or a home kitchen. Setting aside a few of the more perfect ones to eat later, we sliced and chopped (the odd piece somehow making its way into my mouth) and soon a 6kg pot of jam was bubbling happily away.
Something I didn’t realise about figs is that the tree bears no flowers as such; the flower grows within a skin that ripens into the fruit, and only the female fruit is edible. Figs are native to Western Asia and have long been eaten throughout the Middle East, being especially popular in Turkish and Greek cuisine.
I regret that I couldn’t bring any back to Melbourne with me, but happily did manage to bring in two jars of jam and some that had been sundried. Hmmmm.
greg’s figtastic fig jam
Apologies for the quality of the photos, they were taken with my old camera phone. You can multiply the below depending on how many kilos of the fruit you have.
1 large lemon, halved (organic or off an unsprayed tree if possible)
- cut the nib off the top of the fig and chop into pieces
- put in a heavy-based saucepan and sprinkle over a ¼ cup of sugar (per kilo of fruit), leaving for a few hours to draw out the moisture (no heat)
- over a low heat, heat the fruit and add the lemon, squeezing out all the juice and putting the rinds in as well. Slowly heat until the fruit warms and more moisture is released, then increase to a medium heat until the figs have softened and are cooked (the outside of the fruit is soft). Be sure to stir regularly to prevent sticking and skim off as many seeds as you can while it cooks
- only stir in the rest of the sugar once the fruit is cooked, as sugar stops the fruit from softening
- keep cooking until you gain the required consistency. To test the jam is set, keep a saucer in the freezer and put a dollop of jam on this. Leave for 5 minutes and see if it is the consistency you require
- when you are happy with it, remove peel (squeeze them with tongs to get out any juices) and remove from the heat
- allow to cool for around 10 minutes before pouring into hot, sterilised jars and seal with the lid.
My dad also makes batches with crystalised ginger (50g per 1kg fruit) or chopped macadamia nuts (⅓ cup per 1 kg fruit). Divine.
The below slice was made with a batch of last year’s fig jam, although you could use any jam (a red or purple jam would make a more interesting looking slice). Make sure you use good quality jam that has chunks of fruit in it.
Just a note, I used macadamia nut oil but have put coconut oil in the recipe below. It tasted amazing but was crumbly once a fork went into it, so I think coconut oil would hold it together better. If you‘d like to use butter, go to the original recipe that comes from Elsie Marley’s website – it has been browned and it would hold together better than oil.
fig jam and oatmeal slice
1 ¼ cups oatmeal
1 cup ground almonds (I used a mix of hazelnut, macadamia and cashew)
1 cup spelt flour
⅓ cup rapadura sugar
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp tea salt
zest of one orange
150ml flavourless coconut oil (refined)
1 cup good-quality fig or other jam
- combine all of the ingredients, except the oil and jam, in a large bowl and mix
- pour in the oil and mix well
- press two thirds of the dough into a small baking pan lined with baking paper
- spread the jam on top and crumble the rest of the dough over it
- bake in a 180°C/350°F oven for 25-30 minutes or until nicely browned
- cool in the tin then cut into squares.