Wednesday, 31 October 2012

i do give a fig

fig and pomegranate jam
fresh figs have always been somewhat of a novelty food for me. i cannot remember when i had my first fresh fig but the dried ones were a plenty especially in pakistan. my memory of these are of bone chilling winter afternoons made toasty and warm with gas heaters, because i would usually eat then as a snack at that hour. the dried figs were threaded on a rough textured rope. their skins were were coarse and wrinkled like the calloused hands of labourers and could sometimes be tough. but the flesh on the inside was crunchy with the seeds with a toffee like softness. mama’s friend used to make a lovely warm winter salad by macerating the figs with other dried fruits in juice. the hydration would refresh the skin and plump the flesh.
in london, i much prefer eating fresh figs. leila’s shop in shoreditch had figs at the start of the season so ripe that the mere suggestion of a touch caused them to reveal themselves. these little globes are pricey though and so i eat them as as a treat. often i will use them to lift a salad, or as a sweet punctuation to a salty cheese like halloumi or feta. one of o’s favourite suppers was a tartine of grilled halloumi and fried figs with pomegranate molasses. i’d never been a fan of fig jam though, that is until i ate diana henry’s fig and pomegranate jam. this is a jewel like jam, its colour a mix of ruby, sapphire and amethyst brought together. what kept me from making it was the cost. however, i remember diana henry mentioning that figs are cheaper across the channel and so when i was in paris this last weekend i brought back a kilo (at a fraction of the price in london). they were the colour of dark bruises and as is the case with figs, fragile. as a consequence our rather harassed journey to gard du nord at rush hour left them more vulnerable than when they had started. that gave me an excuse to eat the heavily bruised ones whilst making the jam. 

this is a luxurious jam, the kind that you would eat on the weekend for breakfast. diana henry likes it with labneh and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. i’ve had it with ricotta and o had his folded in turkish yoghurt. it would be good for a tartine like the one mentioned above except with a more pungent cheese like goats cheese. try using a sourdough with walnuts as a base as nuts and figs have a natural affinity. now, all that remains is for me to convince o that this is a jam of delicate proportions and is to be eaten as such. i have adapted diana henry’s recipe to suit my needs. it’s a simplified version that reflects the contents of my pantry more than anything else. i found that the lack of pectin did not affect the quality of my jam although i did have to boil it for a little longer. 

this recipe preserves autumn in a jar. it reminds me of a poem 'thirteen ways with figs' by michelle mcgrane. her eleventh way with figs asked me to do this and so i did. i haven't lined my pantry shelves but i've sealed in some sunshine for the winter ahead. 

'in autumn, line your pantry shelves with jars of fig jam 
scented with cardamom pods. seal in the sunshine 
with smooth wax discs and screw-top lids'. 

{purple fig and pomegranate jam} 
adapted from diana henry’s recipe from salt sugar smoke 

seven hundred grams figs, stalk tips removed, fruit quartered 
zest and juice of an unwaxed lemon 
four hundred and fifty ml apple juice (i used copella) 
four hundred and fifty grams golden sugar 
three tablespoons pomegranate molasses 

place the figs, lemon zest and juice and the apple into a heavy-based saucepan with the apple juice. cook on a low heat without stirring until the fruit is very soft (about twelve minutes). 

add the sugar and cook gently until dissolved, stirring to help it along. once the sugar is dissolved bring to boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about fifteen minutes, skimming off any scum that rises. then stir through the pomegranate molasses and cook for a further five minutes. 

to test the jam for readiness dip a teaspoon into it. it should coat the teaspoon in a thin film whilst falling off at a languid pace from it. 

bottle the jam when it is still hot using warm, dry, sterilised jars, covered with waxed paper discs. store in a cool dry place and refrigerate once opened.

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