Often on our walks, Hiro and I pass by a large fig tree in a neighbor’s backyard that overhangs the high brick wall facing the sidewalk on which we travel. I first noticed the tree when the weather began to turn warmer and the branches became full with the familiar round-lobed leaves. The fig tree’s leaves and fruit look just like our smaller potted fig trees at home; even though this tree is much taller and fuller, the figs are very much the same size. This year our two fig trees have produced some of the plumpest figs I’ve seen from them in the nearly six years we’ve taken care of them, and those figs are the inspiration for this sweet jam.
This recipe occurred to me one morning as I was thinking about using the figs I’d already picked and remembering my husband’s request for a simple fig jam like I’d made a few years ago. I wanted to try a new combination of flavors beyond just honey and figs, though, so I looked through my copy of The Flavor Bible and saw the complimentary combination suggestion of figs, orange and cinnamon. I’d also remembered a recipe from The New Spanish Table that soaked whole figs in brandy before stuffing them as appetizers, and that completed the idea in my head to use a homemade triple sec as flavoring and sweetener for the figs. Be sure to use a sweet orange liqueur; you shouldn’t need to add any additional sweetener besides the liqueur and cinnamon. With a small amount of effort and time, this sweet spread delivers a nuanced fig flavor for your toast, scones, or whatever you desire to add it to.
1/2 pound ripe figs, cut in half or quartered (depending on their size)
1/2 cup sweet orange liqueur, such as triple sec
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon (freshly ground cardamom works very well, too)
Pinch of kosher salt
Place trimmed and halved or quartered figs in a small saucepan with the orange liqueur and ground cinnamon, and simmer over medium heat until the figs soften slightly and the liquid is mostly consumed, leaving around a couple of tablespoons, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat during this time if needed to keep the liquid at a low simmer until figs have softened.
When the figs have softened and you are left with a little bit of the liquid, remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for several minutes until it cools down to about room temperature. When cooled, put the fig mixture in a high-powered blender, add the pinch of salt, and purée until smooth and no large bits of fig remain. Scoop into a small jar, seal and refrigerate. Eat with pleasure.
Makes about 1 cup of fig jam