Fig preserves are preserves made with fresh figs which have been cooked to create a chunky, jam-like mixture. A wide variety of methods can be used to prepare this condiment, resulting in an assortment of styles, and there are a number of ways to use it. When well-prepared, these preserves capture the flavor and texture of fresh figs, allowing people to enjoy figs year-round, not just when they are in season.
Like other jams and jellies, fig preserves can be smeared on toast for breakfast, but they have a number of other uses. For example, they can be used as a layer in a stacked dessert such as a cake, adding an intense, fruity flavor. Fig preserves can also be smeared on bread with cheese, baked into various sweet and savory foods, or eaten straight out of the jar, for people who really enjoy figs.
Any type of fig can be used for fig preserves, and it is also perfectly appropriate to make a mix. Some people use whole figs, while others like to slice up or peel their figs. When cooked carefully, whole figs can be preserved intact, while sliced or peeled figs tend to cook down into a chunky mush like other jams. For a smooth version, the cooked mixture can be run through a food mill before canning.
To prepare fig preserves, cooks should be comfortable with the home canning process, and familiar with the procedures needed to sterilize jars, such as using a boiling water bath. Equal weights of figs and sugar are needed for fig preserves, along with any desired added flavorings, such as lemon slices, cloves, and so forth.
The figs should be washed, destemmed, and peeled, if desired, before being added to a large pan with the sugar and cooked until they soften and start to turn translucent. Some people like to macerate their figs in sugar overnight, which can prevent burning in the pan, since the sugar draws out the liquid in the figs, creating a syrup for the figs to cook in. If ingredients like lemon slices are being added, they should be thrown into the pot around halfway through the cooking process.
Once the figs have cooked to translucence, the fig preserves can be placed in sterilized jars and sealed. Cooks should check to confirm that the jars seal tightly, with slightly inverted lids, before storing the preserves in a cool dry place. They will keep for up to a year unopened. Open jars should be refrigerated and used within a few weeks. If jars do not seal properly, they need to be opened, resterilized, and resealed.