Saturday, 6 September 2014
Garden-wise this harvest season has been both good and bad. We got loads of tomatoes again, thanks to the Culinary Consultant's hard work in the greenhouse. And we have so many courgettes and marrows that we don't know what to do with them all (so we just freeze them). Plums look good so far, enough to make a few more batches of jam, and pears look like they are coming along nicely. The asparagus did great in the spring, and most of the herbs have grown well. Grapes were a disaster, they all had some disease and just rotted away. Lettuce, basil, koriander and dill were complete failures, as were rocket and radishes. The birds ate all our cherries and almost all of the raspberries. This year we managed to get a few apricots, not many, but enough to sample them and they were absolutely gorgeous. I have only eaten store bought apricots, and never been a fan as I don't think they actually taste very much of anything. Ours were sweet and really good, too bad there wasn't enough to actually do something with them. And the figs did better this year as well. Last year we managed to get one fig. This year we have already eaten several sweet, juicy figs and we managed to get one batch which was enough to get the old gears turning a bit...
We were so encouraged by our success with the plum jam that we decided to try to make a fig preserve as well. After looking around the Interwebs for a while, I found this recipe which sounded very delicious and also perfect for the amount of figs we happened to have at hand. If you are not a seasoned jam maker, the link contains step by step illustrated instructions, although to be fair it's not very complicated. Just put all ingredients in a saucepan and boil.
Fig and ginger preserves (makes about 2 cups of jam):
455 g (1 lb) figs
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
grated zest from one lemon (about 1 tsp)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (or 1/2 tsp dried ground ginger or 1/4 cup candied ginger)
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup sugar)
Prepare your jars by washing them and their lids in soapy water, rinse and shake most of the water out but don't towel dry. Place on a newspaper covered oven sheet, and turn oven onto 120 degrees C. Leave jars in oven until they have been at 120 degrees for at least 10 minutes, or until the water has dried. Wash and chop figs (I cut each fig into 8 pieces). Add all ingredients into a saucepan, and slowly bring to a boil while the sugar is melting. Cook until jam is at setting point (starts to thicken, and becomes sticky when scooped up using a cold spoon). Remove the cinnamon stick. Distribute the jam into the sterilised jars, cover with a piece of vax or parchment paper and close the lids. Label and store in the fridge. Note that if you use half honey and half sugar, the jam will not keep for as long, the original recipe suggests to eat it within 10-15 days. We wanted our jam to keep for longer, so we made it with sugar only. I have no idea how long this jam will keep, as we don't do the whole "submerge jars in cooking water" after sealing the lids.
Second jam success! This was extremely good, the flavour of figs came out on top as it should, but you can also taste the lemon and the warm aftertaste of ginger. I would love to eat it with a spoon straight out of the jar, but it's also delicious on buttered toast. I could also imagine it would be great in cakes or maybe with some cheese and crackers. And with ice cream. And maybe in muffins. I am really getting into this whole jam thing, it certainly isn't nearly as hard as I thought. The only thing I don't know about yet is how long the jams will keep. However, given how good the jam is, I'm not sure I need to worry about such things as it will probably be gone very soon.