Even though they look dainty and beautiful, don't be deceived: figs are a very powerful fruit.
Not only do they make you feel elegant and slightly exotic when you eat them, but also they can transform any other food they touch into something sumptuous.
Sadly, figs are around for only a brief time in the grocery stores out here in California (late August-September). Even less out on that other, more east coast. The obvious solution: make fig jam! Better yet: make fig balsamic jam!
I have been wanting to make this fig balsamic jam recipe from Ad Hoc at Home since I got the book in December. Those were 9 very long months. And 9 very long months worth the wait.
This jam is lush, there is no better way to put it.
It has this gorgeous, round, deep sweetness from the figs, but then there are also these whisps of smokiness and ash. Simply luscious!
What do you have balsamic fig jam with, you ask. It is to die for with anything savory, especially with rosemary olive oil bread and any kind of meat. But, as long as it is used in measured quantities, it will take a regular cheese plate and turn it into a gourmet cheese plate. I happen to also like it on plain old toast, and... I'll admit it, simply off a spoon.
It was easy to make. As long as you have some good figs,
you are in business.
Start by chopping up your figs. I quartered them, but next time an even smaller chop would be better.
In the meantime, since this is a Thomas Keller recipe after all, time for a peppercorn sachet.
You don't really get the peppercorn flavor in the end product, but it helps make your jam have an ever more deep, rich, and complex flavor.
Now, get your figs in a Dutch oven.
Add some sugar.
Next: a crucial ingredient:
I think what takes this jam and turns it lush is the mix of balsamic and fig. They were simply meant to be together.
Stir that all up, and add your sachet.
Simmer it all together, and break up the bigger chunks of fig, but leave smaller chunks. This jam is meant to have some gorgeous, identifiable bits of fig in it.
Cook until your jam can pass the plate test and registers 215-220 degrees.
Once it is done, remove from the heat, remove the sachet, and add a squeeze of lemon to balance out the sweetness.
Get it into jars, process, and you have a secret weapon in your refrigerator and pantry that will turn everything you add it to into gold.
Enjoy being lush!
Fig Balsamic Jam (from Ad Hoc at Home)
2 pounds of figs, preferably Black Mission or Kadota, stems removed and coarsely chopped*
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, tied into a sachet
Fresh lemon juice
Combine the figs, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and sachet into a large sauce pan and attach a candy thermometer to the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and soak, stirring to break up the larger pieces of fig, keeping a chunky consistency, until the jam reaches 215 to 220 degrees.** Remove from the heat.
Remove the sachet and stir in lemon juice to taste. Spoon the jam into a canning jar or other storage container, cover, and let cool to room temperature, the refrigerate for up to 1 month.
Makes 2 1/2 cups.
*This time I quartered them, but I think do a slightly finer chop would be better in the long run.
**I like using the plate test to check for jelling.