Not A Fig In Sight
We are back on the coast in my aunt and uncles holiday home. Until a couple of years ago my grandmother used to plant a vegetable patch every summer in the garden surrounding the house. Now there are only trees and shrubs.
There are three fig trees of different variety in the garden. Before we came down here in July my grandmother said that some of the figs should ripen while we were here. I love love love figs and was looking forward to them. It didn’t happen. I checked the three trees almost daily for the two weeks hoping to find a ripe fig. Didn’t find a single one.
A day before we returned home my sister-in-law went on vacation. She has a great big fig tree and a vegetable garden behind her house. Before they left she said that we should go and pick any ripe figs or cucumbers so they wouldn’t go to waste while they were away. So one day, about a week later, we took a large bowl and got in the car. When we got there, as you can imagine, not a single ripe fig. At this point I made my peace with the fact that this was a fig free summer.
Up To my Knees In Figs
Then about a month ago my husband realized that he had some days of work in September and that he no longer needed them for what he originally planed. So we called my uncle, found out that the house was empty and here we are back on the coast.
When we got here I couldn’t believe my eyes. Figs everywhere. All three trees were full of ripe figs ready for picking and more that were going to ripen in a few days. There were so many I couldn’t eat them all and pretty soon they had taken over the fridge. We were in the middle of a fig invasion. Something had to be done, an action needed to be taken.
First thing that popped in my mind was to freeze them but I wasn’t sure how they would come out. Then I remembered my sister-in-law preserves them whole in syrup in jars but that isn’t something we would use. The only option left, I could think of, was to make jam.
We were in the same situation with pears. They were taking over the apartment. Every time we went to visit grandma we would come home with a box full of pears. So I already made quite a bit of pear jam this year.
The Tale Of Fig Jam
Making jam takes a bit of work. You have to wash and sterilize jars, wash, clean and cut the fruit, actually make the jam and then you are left with a sink full of dishes and possibly a sticky kitchen. It takes time and it takes space. Both of which there is a great shortage of in our household. That is why I started using those pectin “jam in 5 minutes” packets. They are a life saver. A couple of years ago I made pear jam from scratch and it took forever to reach the right consistency. I don’t have that time any more. Back home, with everyday life in full bloom, making jam is a chore. On vacation it is a pastime.
I was on vacation, I had more time, so why not try to make it without a gelling powder. With the help of my trusted sidekick the smart phone I found a recipe I liked in minutes. It promised 20 minutes of cooking time. The decision was made. I was going to make jam. I was going to make jam in somebody elses half stocked holiday home kitchen without all the tools.
Step 1: Gather all you are going to need
I had the fruit, bowls and knives to prepare them, but no kitchen scale to weigh the figs. Luckily I brought my measuring cups with me. So how many cups in a pound of figs? I checked with the before mentioned sidekick and he said three cups. I could now prepare and measure the fruit and found a few bigger pots so I was ready to cook the jam.
When th jam is ready I will need something to put it in. I need jars. Where do you find jars in a small coastal town geared towards tourism. As luck would have it a supermarket opened a few years back and I found some jars. They were the 3/4 liter plain jars that one would normally use for pickling cucumbers but beggars can’t be choosers. Back home I would go to the local hardware store where I could choose from a shelf full of jars. I could choose the size and shape of the jar and the design printed on the lid. Here I was happy I even found jars.
Step 2: Sterilize jars
With the ingredients prepared and measured I could start cooking the jam but first I needed to sterilize the jars. Hm… This will be tricky.
I usually “bake” the jars in the oven to sterilize them. Boiling them in a large pot is too complicated. For one, I don’t have a big enough pot so I have to boil them in batches. And the second reason is that the water is very hard where we live so I get a chalky white residue on the jars.
Unfortunately, there is something wrong with the oven down here so I cannot use it. Ok, no problem, I’ll just boil them. Aha, there isn’t a deep enough pot that I can stand the jars in which means I have to lay them on their side to submerge them. This in turn means I can sterilize only two at a time. Ok, no problem, just a bit more time, nothing serious.
Step 3: Cook jam
I started the jam adding the ingredients as directed in the recipe the sidekick found. It was now time to put the second baths of jars in the pot to be sterilized. I looked over to their pot and what did I see? A problem. The chalky white residue was swimming on top of the water and what is worse as the jars are laying on their side it found its way into the jars. The water was supposed to be soft down here. What is going on? I had to rinse the jars which means they are no longer sterile. After this I decided that there was no point in sterilizing the other two jars, they were better of just washed.
A bit of a fig jam jam
Jam in unsterilized jars is a big problem. The way I saw it I had two options, freeze the jam or use the jars as they are. Either way I will have to boil the jam when I get home and put it into smaller and sterile jars. Now there are four jars of fig jam sitting in the fridge waiting for a re-do. What started as a vacation pastime has turned into a chore to take back home. It feels like I didn’t finish my assignment at school so I’m taking it home for homework. I just hope it doesn’t spoil by then.
A week has passed since I got into this jamming jam. The jarred jam is holding. To keep them company in the fridge there is a new bowl of figs. There are too many to eat so I’ll be freezing these.