This feels like a true holiday jam to me — a celebration in a jar. It’s true that there are a lot of ingredients at this party, but thankfully they all really like each other. Maybe it’s because of the champagne.
I’ve been pouring champagne into every possible preserve these past few weeks, including Pomegranate Champagne Jelly and a very cheerful grapefruit mimosa jam. I have always loved champagne and have been delighted to discover that it’s so jam friendly. It exhibits a variety of behaviors, depending on the company it keeps. For example, in the pomegranate champagne jelly, it retains a true champagne flavor. In the grapefruit mimosa jam, it imparts a very subtle white-wine undertone. Here, it throws its hands in the air and adds a little extra something to the happy complexity of the gathering. It’s all good.
|Chopped, fresh Black Mission figs|
This jam is based on Rachel Saunders recipe for Black Fig and Candied Citrus Jam, from the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. (I know I’ve said it before, but her book is gorgeous. I recommend it to anyone who wants to develop their jam-making artistry.) I replaced half of the candied citrus called for by Rachel’s recipe with sugared ginger and used candied lemon peel for the rest. Then I subbed champagne for the liqueurs that Rachel adds to her jam. The amount of champagne needed for flavor increases the liquid content of the recipe — and therefore the cooking time — but the results were still great.
|Candied fruit for the final Can Jam|
There was one more reason for me to use candied lemon in addition to ginger. It’s the year’s final Tigress Can Jam challenge, and Tigress herself ordered up dried fruit for December. That little bit of dried and sugared lemon means I can hold up my head with the can jammers. The 2010 Can Jam is complete and, with the exception of the fact that I joined up a month late, last February, I’ve done my job! And I’d like to say thanks a million, dear Tigress, for this life-changing game. I wouldn’t have this blog or a dozen new, wonderful friends if not for you and all you’ve done to make the Can Jam happen. It’s been brilliant.
|Perfectly frozen figlets|
So. Here’s a final, nifty thing I learned while making this jam: Figs freeze beautifully, if you do it right. I’d picked a couple of pounds of lovely Black Mission figs from a neighbor’s tree and didn’t have time to process them before leaving on my trip to Portland. With a little help from my Can Jamming buddy Julia, I sussed out this page at Ochef that describes how to freeze figs in a sugar-syrup solution. I ended up using a mix of home-frozen and fresh figs to make this batch of jam.
Freezing the figs in sugar syrup surely made the jam sweeter than it would otherwise be — and if I use previously frozen figs again, I’ll cut the recipe’s sugar a bit — but this batch is still a good deal more than tolerable. It had plenty of fans at the Homegrown Marin Market last Saturday.
This recipe is somewhat time intensive; it’s a two-day process involving several steps, so plan accordingly.
Champagne Fig Jam with Candied Ginger and Lemon
5 1/2 pounds Black Mission figs
2 1/2 pounds sugar (I used organic)
5 ounces candied ginger, chopped
5 ounces candied citrus peel, chopped (I used lemon)
6 ounces strained fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups champagne
1. Chop 3 1/2 pounds of figs into 1/2-inch pieces.
2. Put the figs into a wide stainless steel pan so that the figs are no more than a couple of inches deep. Add about 1/2 inch of water to the bottom of the pan. (The figs will soak up the water, so pour it in and measure quickly to be accurate. I used the top joint of my pinky finger as a guide.)
3. Cover the pan and bring the figs to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir, turn the heat to medium low and cook the figs until they are tender, about 20 minutes. As the figs are cooking, give them a stir every five minutes so they don’t stick.
4. Remove the figs from the heat to a large glass or ceramic bowl. Stir in the sugar, ginger, citrus, and lemon juice. You should fall in love with the mixture at this point; it will be so beautiful. But now you must set it aside and go on the the second task . . .
1. Leave the remaining figs whole and put them into a stainless steel pan so that they form only a single layer. Add 1/4 inch of water to the bottom of the pan.
2. Cover the pan and bring the figs to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir, turn the heat to medium low and cover. Cook for 5 minutes.
3. Thoroughly mash the figs so they release their juices. Stir, cover, and cook until the figs are soft and translucent, perhaps 20 to 30 minutes. As the figs are cooking, stir them every five minutes to keep them from sticking.
4. Put these mashed figs through the fine disc of a food mill and add the resulting juice to the chopped fig mixture. Return the contents of the food mill to the mixture as well, mashing up any chunks. (I actually gave the food mill contents a few spins in my VitaMix on its lowest setting, then added it to the mixture. Next time I’ll probably skip the food mill altogether and just put the mashed figs into the VitaMix, give them a whir, and add them to the mixture.)
5. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved, cover, and store in the fridge overnight.
1. Sterilize your jars and put five metal teaspoons in the freezer to test the jam for doneness later.
2. Take the fig mixture from the fridge and stir in the champagne. Put the whole lot into a large jam pan. (I used an 11-quart copper pan for this part.)
3. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Then decrease the heat to a steady simmer. Cook the jam until it thickens, about 40 minutes. About 10 minutes into the cooking process, mash the mixture a bit. After this point, stir the mixture frequently and lower the heat if it starts to stick. (Do watch the heat, because this jam will get sticky and you could end up with little chewy burned bits in your jam. Not so good.) After the jam thickens, start to test it to see if it’s done. Using my 11-quart pan, I called mine done at 46 minutes.
To test your jam for doneness: Remove the pan from the heat. Use one of your frozen spoons to scoop up a little bit of jam — not a whole spoonful, more like half. Return the spoon to the freezer and wait 3 minutes. Retrieve the spoon and hold it vertically. If the mixture runs slowly and mostly as a whole, it’s done. If it is watery or runs quickly, it needs more time. Cook it for 2-3 more minutes, stirring frequently, and test it again. The finished jam in the pan should be, according to Rachel’s perfect choice of word, “gloppy.”
4. Pour the jam into your sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Run a silicone spatula or chopstick around the insides of the jars to release any air bubbles and wipe the rims of the jars clean if necessary.
5. Process 10 minutes in a water bath canner. (The Ball Blue Book says 15 minutes for fig jam, but I defer to this terrific U.C. Davis publication about figs — which also covers all methods of freezing them — stating that 10 minutes is sufficient as long as you’re under 6,000 feet.)
Yields about 12 half-pint jars, which is awesome if you want to make holiday gifts.
Now bring us some figgy jam, and bring it right here!