Champagne Fig Jam || Hitchhiking to Heaven
Holiday, Preserves

Champagne Fig Jam with Candied Ginger and Lemon

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

Day One
Part One: Prepare the Chopped Figs

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 . . .

Part Two: Cook the Whole Figs

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.

Day Two

Make Your Jam

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!

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  • Reply Julia December 8, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Well, you've definitely outdone yourself. This finale is perfectly fitting for the holidays, and the end of Tigress' Can Jam. And can I just say, that the top picture is just lovely? Those little stars! So nifty!

  • Reply puttingupwiththeturnbulls December 9, 2010 at 2:34 am

    This is great! I never thought about using champagne but why not…and, it is perfect timing with the holidays approaching. I'm going to try this…right after I try making some spiced beer jelly.
    Great blog, tasty recipes, and wonderful looking photos…thanks!

  • Reply Michelle December 14, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Your photo of the frozen figs is gorgeous and I can't wait to start freezing figs, beginning next season. Meanwhile I'm content to keep slicing the dried mission figs into my oatmeal, cereal and over toast, etc.

    Am also wondering if it's time to give some bottle (but which?) of champagne out there another try, as I really can't recall if I like it or not!

  • Reply Shae @ H2H December 23, 2010 at 7:44 am

    Julia: Thank you, my friend. And your Christmas Jam certainly added a bright star to our last Can Jam roundup for this year.

    Dear Turnbulls: I'm so glad you visited! Did I see in another comment that you had an interesting experience with that beer jelly? It sounds so very intriguing! Thanks so much for the kind words.

    Michelle: One of the next times we get together, we'll have to test some champagne. Figs in ice cream? Could you see it?

  • Reply Yankee February 26, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Wow, how did I miss this post? Fig jam with ginger is one of my favorite things, and the thought of dressing it up with champagne…!!! Amazing. As soon as I can lay my hands on some fresh figs, I am going to give this a try.

    • Reply Shae February 27, 2011 at 5:01 pm

      Yankee, I hope you will try this one. I can honestly say that it was one of the very best jams I made last year, and one of the most beautiful, too. I am a big fan of the champagne!

  • Reply Jennifer October 15, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Ahhhhh – The champagne from your recipe, and some bits and pieces from another. Can’t wait to finish this tomorrow AND TASTE! Thanks, Shae, for your inspiration and for your generous advice! You give me the courage to explore jamming!

  • Reply Lari June 23, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Hi, I just made these today and I have a couple of questions.
    1) I chopped the figs, added the water and ended up with a lot more liquid, which I left in the pan and used for the whole figs cooking – do Mission figs need more water than Brown Turkey figs (which is what my tree preoduces)?

    2) I used 2 1/2 cups and it was really sweet. What would the benefit be if I used 2 1/2 pounds of sugar rather than 2 1/2 cups?

    • Reply Shae June 23, 2012 at 10:27 am

      Hi Lari: The amount of water in different types of figs can definitely vary — that’s even true for the same figs during different years. I’m sure this is what you already did, but try to add only as much water to the pan as you need to help soften your fruit. Also, you should feel free to reduce the sugar in this recipe (though using 2 1/2 cups instead of 2 1/2 pounds would be cutting it by more than half). Just don’t reduce the lemon juice, because you need that for a safe level of acidity. Keep in mind that the sugar does help to thicken the mixture, so you may not want to reduce it so extremely if you’re ending up with too much liquid. Glad you found a good use for the leftovers!

  • Reply Becki September 16, 2012 at 6:28 am

    This looks AMAZING, and I am beside myself wanting to try some. My problem however is lack of figs. They aren’t something readily available where I live, even now, when it’s “fig season”. I was wondering if you had an opinion on using dried figs? My concern is the lack of fig juice, of course.

    • Reply Shae December 3, 2012 at 8:17 am

      Oh, boy, Becki, was I out to lunch when you wrote this note. Sorry I didn’t reply in a timely way. Now Emily, just below, has also written to ask about dried figs. I’ll answer there . . .

  • Reply Emily December 2, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    I am really excited to try this recipe… Is it possible to adjust it for dried figs? The fresh ones are not available in my town right now. I have looked for other recipes that are equally impressive and keep coming back to this one. Thanks!

  • Reply Shae December 3, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Hi Emily: I’ve always waited for fresh figs (and then frozen them if I’ve had to) so I can’t advise on how to adjust this recipe for dried fruit. I do know that there are recipes out there for conserves and jams that use dried figs. If you can find one that looks good to you, you can always experiment with adding the flavors you like from this recipe — champagne and citrus — to that. Best of luck!

  • Reply Sarah January 30, 2013 at 7:41 am

    I have been craving figs so much lately, and missing my epic jam sessions of the summer– this post is both the best and worst thing ever. But mostly the best. I can’t wait to be able to make some of this deliciousness!

  • Reply Christine April 1, 2013 at 7:37 am

    I made this jam this week from frozen figs and it turned out beautifully. I was not using mission figs, however; mine were similar color on the inside, but with green skins on the outside. Maybe it was for this reason, but adding water as recommended to the chopped figs resulted in far too much liquid in the pot. As Lari suggested, I spooned out the chopped figs, poured about a cup of the fig juice into a glass for breakfast the next day, and reserved a small amount for processing the whole figs in the next step. For future reference, I think you need not add any water if you are working with frozen figs — at least with non-mission figs. You can always add it as needed.

    As suggested, I did not put the whole figs through a food mill, but just blended in place before adding. I also cut the sugar in half, and next time will add even less, as the result was still quite sweet. Thank you for a delicious recipe!

    • Reply Shae April 2, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      Thanks, Christine, for your feedback and for your helpful contributions. Much appreciated!

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