I’ve labeled this post retro cooking, but I’m not 100% sure that’s an accurate description. Is fig jam or fig paste a retro food or one of our more modern discoveries? My mum – who helped with this one – certainly hadn’t grown up eating figs or fig condiments. Perhaps it’s something that came with the food-wise Europeans when they started migrating to Australia in large numbers. Nonetheless, it is a preserve and that’s a retro style of cooking in my book – or should I say my blog.
In fact the very reason I came to have enough figs to make fig jam is through a means I grew up with – picking the fruit from trees hanging over the fence line from the neighbours. In my childhood, and I would guess in many others as well, if it was on our side of the fence it was fair game. In this way we managed to keep ourselves supplied with apricots, blood plums and lemons. The lemon tree was on the side owned by people who were and still are good friends of the family, so it didn’t even matter if it was on our side, if we could reach it or had to jump the fence even, that was fine.
The apricots and blood plums on the other hand were on the side owned by people we never knew well – despite it being an era where neighbours knew each other, especially in country towns and where we knew and played with the children of houses up and down the street. So the task of collecting the fruit was somewhat sneakier, but well worth the personal risk. It was a crying shame, and not something we could live with, to see these beautiful fruits rotting on the ground as the people living there never picked or ate them. I recently read in Sandra’s $120 Food Challenge Blog (check it out for some great budget, but inspiring recipes) that sometimes the best strawberries are those in your memories. Well, this is how I feel about plums, nothing quite compares to the beautiful, small dark fruits from this neighbour’s tree and in the end I would go to just about any length to get them – our side of the fence or not!
But I digress, this is supposed to be about fig jam, not plums. After the success of my green tomato pickles, I was feeling like quite the preserving master and decided to make the most out of the figs hanging over my fence from the neighbours. Apparently they don’t seem to pick them at all – the property was bought not long ago from an elderly Greek lady and it’s mandatory in this area that all Greek homes have at least 1 fig tree. The figs had been dropping on the ground, making a mess of my path and becoming a bit pongy – though providing hours of entertainment for the dog, who loves them.
After a quick scout around Mum and I managed to pick about 1.5kg of ripe figs – still plenty of unripe ones on the tree so there may be a sequel to this post later. We then scoured my many cookbooks and had a quick look at the web, as a friend had sent me a link to a recipe when I was talking to her about the fig situation I had, and decided on the recipe in my food Bible – Stephanie Anlexander’s The Cook’s Companion, a much loved and used wedding present. This recipe was a little different to the others as it was designed more for serving with cheese than spreading on toast. It included a whole lemon – skin and all – pulsed in the food processor as well as red wine vinegar, so it has a bit of bite to it. After simmering it for some time and then testing the setting (another new trick I learnt) it was ready to be poured into my pre-sterilised jars.
The next day my Dad joined us and we served the jam with a cheese platter before dinner. Now I know it’s probably rude the brag about your own cooking – but can I just say YUMMO. I think it would be even better with a nice soft cheese, but sadly that’s off the menu for pregnant women. This might just have to be put high on the list of foods to indulge in post-birth (which isn’t too far away now!) And with that I will sign off until next time – still a master at preserving.