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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Simply Beautiful Pickled Figs and Other Delectables

I know this post will have little to offer to practically every reader, here. I get that. This is so un-relatable to most. After all, who has unripe figs to deal with? And who really wants to go to the trouble to pickle them? I'm only posting about this recent project because it gave me so much pleasure in the making process.

Figs tend to have two crops per season. The first crop ripens in mid to late summer in my area. I've mentioned before, that in my climate, the late crop never ripens for us. In mid-October, I find myself deluged with hard, green figs. In previous years, I've made an unripe fig jam that's pretty good. However, this year, I have more jam and jelly than I think we'll actually use. So I set out on a quest for a good recipe to pickle these figs.

The recipe that I found called for unripe figs. cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, cardamom pods, ginger root, lemon peel, honey, vinegar, and sugar. What I had included unripe figs, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, cardamom pods, ginger powder, lemon juice, vinegar, and sugar, but no honey. Good enough. I was absolutely thrilled to find the cardamom pods. I don't recall what I bought them for, but I was very glad to have just barely enough for this project.

The aroma of the heated liquid was amazing. As the spices were simmering with the figs, I kept lifting the lid to smell their essence. After 30 minutes of gentle cooking, my beautiful figs were ready for bottling. 

In total, I made 3 large and 1 small jar of pickled figs.

This was such a satisfying project. I enjoyed this whole sensory experience. I felt like I was making something gourmet, plus I preserved garden produce to make it actually useful for us.

Another satisfying project this past week was a small jar of peanut butter-cocoa powder spread for toast. I had been watching Nigella Lawson earlier in the week as she made a Nutella cheesecake. Yum, that looked delicious! Nutella has milk in it so it's something on my don't eat list. But my own spread was made with ingredients that are okay for me: peanut butter (the cheap kind), cocoa powder (the good kind -- Special Dark Hershey's), confectioner's sugar, and vegetable oil to thin to spreading consistency. It tastes like peanut butter cup candy. It's been delicious on both toast and graham crackers, like a cross between a sweet breakfast and a dessert.

Earlier this summer, I made rosemary-rhubarb preserves. I've been experimenting with using fresh herbs in jelly and preserves. I made a batch of crabapple-sage jelly just last week. Adding herbs to these preserves elevates them from simple spreads for bread or sandwiches to something almost gourmet. I served the crabapple-sage jelly with biscuits to go with a soup supper late last week. The rosemary-rhubarb-preserves were delicious as a condiment with roasted chicken and in chicken salad sandwiches.

In my family's early years, foods had to be simple and very recognizable. PBJ's had to be made with a plain jelly, no jams or unusual flavorings. Pickles had to at least look like something from a store. I might have gotten away with my peanut butter-cocoa powder substitution for Nutella, simply because it tastes a little like candy spread on a piece of toast. However, the rest of my little experiments would have been a waste of space in the fridge. I'm grateful to have finally reached a place where I can make things that appeal to my own tastes and are actually appreciated by the rest of the family. This is a good place.

10 comments:

  1. A few years ago, someone came into the library with rooted cuttings from his fig tree. They were small--in a yogurt cup, but I took one and it has been slowly growing ever since. Our climate is cold for figs in that they freeze and die back every year, but will come back. Last year I got one fig, this year there were five. Maybe next year, we'll get 10, but I think it will be a while before we have enough to pickle them. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Lucky you to receive a start from someone's fig tree! As I recall, the first several years did not yield any figs. Then, like you, we had one or two, then a handful, and then many more. Our biggest problem is that the second and largest crop each year doesn't have enough warm weather to ripen. So, I've had to come up with ways to use these unripe figs. We did plant the fig trees up close to the house on the south side to capture as much heat as possible. I think that helped. Wishing you years of many, many sweet, delicious figs!

      We're expecting unseasonably cold weather by Friday, here. So, yesterday I picked another bucket of unripe figs and made jam and whole preserved figs.

      Have a great day, Live and Learn!

      Delete
  2. I think it's fascinating when people grow things in their area that are "foreign" to me. So how do you eat pickled figs? (and don't say "with my mouth"). As a side dish, with sandwiches?

    I, too, am finding that my family is much more open to trying different kinds of food these days. It makes cooking more fun. I used to think that I was doing something wrong as a parent when they wanted to stick to "safe" foods but now I realize .... that's just a little kid thing .... give it time and it gets better.

    Feel free to post a recipe for your homemade Nutella. Yum. Or maybe not. That stuff is dangerous .....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kris,
      We'll eat the pickled figs as a side dish with dinner, like I would serve other sweet pickles like the watermelon rind pickles that I make. As I mentioned to Live and Learn, I also made a batch of whole preserved figs yesterday. These don't have vinegar so I'll use them as a fruit dessert or with cheese and crackers/crusty bread.

      Isn't it great when you can finally cook with more spices and textures? My family actually loves Brussel sprouts, now. I love vegetables, so this is huge for us that I can cook any sort of veggie and it's well-received.

      I didn't follow a recipe, but made the peanut butter-cocoa powder by taste and texture. I started with a huge glob of peanut butter, added a couple tablespoons of dark cocoa powder. Then I thinned with a little oil alternating with confectioner's sugar until spreadable and just sweet enough. It was delicious! But not at all flavored like Nutella, more like a peanut butter cup candy.

      Wishing you a wonderful day, Kris!

      Delete
  3. Also curious about how you eat/serve the pickled figs? I don't have any to preserve this year, but we planted a Texas Everbearing Fig this past spring so I hope to in the future!

    Even when something doesn't apply personally, it's interesting to see your thought process and creativity, so thanks for sharing.

    Heading a long backpacking trip this coming Saturday, so probably won't be able to check in for a couple weeks. Happy Fall to You!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cat,
      In your climate you may get more ripe figs than we do, which would be a great thing, I think. The pickled or preserved green figs is a good use of unripe fruit, though. Good luck with your new fig tree! It takes a few years to get going, but I don't think as many years as other fruit trees.

      I hope you have an amazing backpacking adventure! Is this another solo trip or will you be going with others? You are one brave woman, Cat!

      Stay safe and well, Cat.

      Delete
  4. Wow! Figs are not something we generally can find where I live. I have often wanted to eat a fig (not the dried ones) but a rather a fresh, ripe one. Can't find them anywhere. Nutella is so full of bad things that we could never eat that but hey, maybe your recipe could work for a treat now and again.

    Alice

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    Replies
    1. Hi Alice,
      That doesn't surprise me that figs would not be readily available in many places. When they're ripe, they only keep for a couple of days, then become too soft and unappealing, I think. I think you'd need to go to a market that featured mostly international foods, and even then, the window of peak ripeness for fresh figs would be slim. I'd never had a fresh fig before growing them. They're not as sweet as you might think, but very tasty. I added some quartered figs to a fruit plate one weekend when my son and DIL came for dinner this summer. The two of them really appreciated the figs. My DIL said ours were firmer than ones she had bought before.

      I'm not sure what goes into Nutella. One of the great benefits of making foods yourself is knowing exactly what the ingredients are. My peanut butter-cocoa powder spread is likely healthier than frosting (protein from the peanut butter and less sugar overall), so I would consider it a sweet treat/snack for my family. Better for us than a lot of other sweet snacks. It was delicious!

      Wishing you a wonderful day, Alice.

      Delete
  5. I am not able to comment, just testing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Laura,
      I'm so sorry that you've had these difficulties with comments. The platform I use has had it's share of issues for me, as well. And even more so with their latest update that occurred a little over a month ago.

      I hope you are well. Take care, friend. And if you can post comments in the future, that's great. If not -- if you have a question or want to add something to the conversation, just email me.

      Delete

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