Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Fig preserves

Whats not to love about figs? They are juicy and sweet, and healthy too. I get all pepped up and my hands itch when I see the fresh figs that sell here for $0.99 a piece. I want to buy like a dozen of them to make a fig-mascarpone tart that has been bookmarked from so long back. But figs here plain suck. Either they are not ripe or if they are, they are watery and tasteless. Pittsburgh is no France or Italy. Even the Whole foods figs are a disappointment...

I eat sunmaid figs a lot and can probably finish the entire bag myself. From my trip to the spice capital of UAE, Dubai, I had purchased some really dry figs. They were really chewy and even a fig lover cannot appreciate them much. I decided to make some preserves, not for toasts but for use in fig & goat cheese pizzas and other appetizers. After my not so satisfactory search, I decided to go Deborah Madison's way with some (or rather a whole lot) of changes. The recipe as written by the Queen of Vegetarian cooking is here. I halved the recipe but used the same amount of sugar.
1 lb dried figs
1/4 cup vanilla sugar
8 sprigs thyme
pinch of salt
zest of 1 orange, finely chopped
Juice of 1 orange
2 sticks cinnamon
1-2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (optional)- if you want an extra punch

I soaked the figs in warm water for 30 minutes. Then I added them to a saucepan and added enough water to submerge them. Added the sugar, salt, thyme and cinnamon. Let it simmer away on medium-low heat till the figs are soft. After half the time, add the zest. Simmer and let water evaporate. Remove from heat and add the orange juice. Remove thyme and cinnamon. I used an immersion blender to puree the figs coarsely.

I decided to stop with that. But on tasting it, I felt it lacked a punch. I remembered that Todd English's french fig confit had balsamic winegar and wine. So I decided to add a little balsamic vinegar. The vinegar did the trick and my lovely preserves taste so yummy. Now I have to get some goat cheese...

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