In the Land of Figs

A week ago we arrived in Athens amidst a flurry of activity associated with moving, unpacking, settling and getting to know new rhythms of new places. I was happy to find that I had arrived at fig season – or at least the tail end of it. My local λαική (an open air street market – a word meaning “of the people”) occurs on Friday mornings. It is quite a small affair, perhaps 2 to 3 blocks long. It is located in an old, established neighbourhood in the capital city and the prices are considered to be a little steeper than in the big central markets. Nevertheless, it is only a few steps away from where I live. How could I resist?

As in most markets, prices fluctuate from stall to stall. Figs ranged from €4.00 to €3.25 for half a kilo at most of the stalls, but at one end, amidst the vendors selling tea towels and plastic utensils, I found a stall selling figs for €1.25/half kilo. Absolutely perfect condition, too. Amazingly lucky, I was told. Perhaps this augurs well, at least for the making of jam.

fig_jam_feature

Fig Jam
My version is very lemony, not too sugary which takes advantage of the natural sweetness of the figs. Great for use in my fig jam crostata or fig jam, caramelised onion and goat cheese crostini.

  • 600g figs (about 4 cups chopped)
  • 450g (about 2 cups) caster sugar – less if the figs are very sweet
  • 2 lemons

Cut your cleaned figs into small pieces.

figs_chopped

Add sugar to the jam pot. Bring to a boil, then add the juice from 2 lemons plus (optionally) the chopped zest from 1 lemon. Let it hard boil for about 10 to 15 minutes. Check to see if it has reached the gel point by spooning a small amount onto a cold plate. If not, continue boiling, but check frequently. Once it has reached the gel point, turn off the heat, remove the pot from the stove, but let the jam settle for a few minutes, stiring occasionally. Pot up in the hot sterilised jars and seal.

I tend to vacuum seal jams using a hot water bath, but use whatever procedure you are used to. However, this time (in the absense of my usual canning jars) I tried another method: hot sterilised (i.e. boiled) jars and lids packed with hot jam, and turned upside down until they cooled and produce a vacuum seal.

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34 comments

  1. yum! your jam looks fabulous. I can’t wait to see what your Greek kitchen produces. I have memories of oranges everwhere in the streets and stores when I was in Athens at at the end of October a few years ago 🙂

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    • There are orange trees along the streets, too – usually in old neighbourhoods like ours. They are actually bitter oranges (a Seville type) – a hangover from 19th century urban landscaping. We have many also growing in our garden which escape the noxious automotive fumes. Cannot wait until marmalade season. Athens, I am told, is just a little too far north for the sweet orange which are brought in mainly from the Peloponnese. Although, we also have a few “mandarin” trees which I think are actually clementines. Of course, there are many lemons and a grapefruit tree, too. I hope to add a quick growing lime (or two) – any suggestions as to variety?

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      • Ah I didn’t know that about the local oranges. As for growing limes I’ll admit to being a very amateur gardener and not very good with varieties of plants. I always defer to my Mum for all things gardening. Sounds like citrus won’t be a challenge to grow though for you though. Hope you’re settling in okay to your new digs. 🙂

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  2. Glad to hear you arrived and seem fairly settled already. Figs would have to be at the top of my “wish I had more” list. Thanks for the recipe, I’m talking to my young tree every day to encourage it to reap a full harvest! Excited about hearing all your anecdotes about your new community. All the best 🙂 Maree

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    • Thanks Amanda. Have been having this spread on sourdough bread toast in the morning. Peach jam next before the season is finished. Have been told to go to the market around mid-day when the sellers reduce prices, plus there is a good souvlaki stand that opens up around that time – a treat for Friday lunches.

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  3. It sounds as if you’re off and running. I’m housebound by toothache and boxes yet to be unpacked! Lovely jam. Can I ask why you turn the jars upside down? A vacuum will form as the jam cools if they remain upright, that’s what I do. Look forward to hearing more!

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  4. Thanks for bringing a little bit of a Greek market to us.I know these posts are going to be good when they start with cheap figs and you’re already making jam.
    The sterilised jar method works fine- Australians have only used this method since colonial times.

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    • Peach jam is on the cards for this weekend. I guess we were so used to the two part lids and the steam sealing method advocated by Ball and Kerr “canning” brands in the US (and the Kilner jars in the UK). Generally, in Britain, the old way was simply put on a waxed paper disk over the jam. I was always a bit leery of this method, and certainly not something to try here in such a hot country. Need to rustle up more jars!

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      • We consumed so much jam when we stayed in Provence years ago- and then we found a farm full of ripe figs.The farmer didn’t want them ( pig food, he said) so we made heaps of Fig Jam with our jars and lids. wee just boil up the jars, dry them in the oven and seal with lids. We don’t turn them over- ever. The modern lids ‘pop’ when sealed from the heat n the jar.

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      • Pig food! I will try not turning half the jars over and the other half flipped. Will see if there is a difference (though I doubt there will be). I suspect that turning them over tests if they are properly closed – otherwise the stuff leaks out.

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  5. There is nothing like fresh figs. The jam looks fabulous, but I trust you are enjoying some of the fresh ones on your walk home from the market too.

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  6. Great to see you’re off and running in the new kitchen Debi! Re turning the jars upside-down, I think the idea is that the boiling jam kills off any remaining bacteria on the lid especially where they are plastic lined so you can’t put them in the oven like the jars…I don’t flip them, but I do run jars and lids through the dishwasher first which I feel must kill anything!

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    • Beck, that is probably the most sensible reason for turning the jars upside down. Thank you for that explanation! Like Greek cooks, the jars AND lids are actually boiled in water and then dried off in the oven, but I can see that the plastic lidded ones would be a problem!

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