Recipes Gone Wild: Brandied Fig Jam

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg

This week I’ve been consumed by two things: A) finding ways to use all the delicious figs (in season in Greenpoint now!) and B) 90s hip hop slow jamz.  

If you’re relaxing in one of the neighborhood’s backyard gardens this time of year, you might be lucky enough to find a fig tree, ripe for the picking (our neighborhood’s backyards actually have a plethora, thanks to Brooklyn’s Italian immigrant heritage).

Maybe it’s been a while since you plucked one of these plump juicy fruits from its branch, and taken the time to savor its sweet delicate flavor…but…hold up, hold up…wait.  Did I just say fruit? These squishy dumplings are actually inverted flowers!

Not only that, but right inside those little orbs you’ll find wasps experiencing their own “slow jam” (aka, reproducing). For the full explanation of how fig wasps procreate, you might find this chart helpful. I get a little lost once the lady wasp enters the ostiole for ovipostion. But I was able to retain that the wasp larvae hatch inside the fig, and the wingless males live out their whole life cycle inside the fig, where they die without ever seeing the sunlight. Eventually these working-class wasps are digested by the fig as the female wasp rubs pollen on her breast and squeezes back out through the ostiole, in search of her next romantic encounter. Ummm…Is it hot in here?

But enough birdz ‘n’ beez – let’s get cooking! All you need is a friend with a fig tree, some sugar, a lemon, and some slow jamz. And you know what would make this party just a little smoother? Did somebody just say brandy? Aw yeah.

Brandied Fig Jam
Makes approximately 8 oz.

Ingredients:
½ lb. Black Mission figs (other similar varieties will work as well), roughly chopped
1/8 cup Turnbinado sugar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon, freshly squeezed
2 Tbsp. Apple Brandy
1 tsp. lemon zest, freshy chopped
Optional: multigrain bread, sliced; soft goat cheese (this is great with something like Humboldt Fog, for its lemon notes and bloomy, earthy qualities)

Method:
1. In a small saucepan, combine figs, lemon juice and zest, sugar, and apple brandy. Give a few stirs to mix and let sit for an hour.
2. Bring the macerated mixture to a boil over medium heat and cook until sugar dissolves, about  minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring frequently, occasionally mashing with the back of a wooden spoon to somewhat smooth out the texture, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Put on some jamz (I like to Heavy D with this recipe). Spread some softened goat cheese onto a slice of toasted bread, and drop a spoonful of warm jam on top. Enjoy. Put the remaining jam in a jar (to make it last for more than just one night). Stores in the fridge for up to two weeks.

NOTE: For pantry preserves, you can process this with the hot water bath method, but you might want to quadruple the batch to make it worth your while. Spoon the cooked jam into 2 hot, clean pint-sized canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year. Refer to canning safety guidelines

About Libby V

Libby VanderPloeg lives and makes work in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She grew up in Michigan on the edge of the Great Lakes dunes, and has lived in Chicago, New York, and Stockholm. Her work comes out of her deep affinity for storytelling, music, letterforms, printed ephemera, and wildlife. None of these works could have been made without the world's finest brioche and several good, strong cups of coffee.

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