If you’ve had the pleasure of owning a mature fig tree, then you know they are a blessing and a curse. A blessing for providing you with so much delicious fruit, and a curse for their eat-’em-or-lose-’em attitude. If you don’t grab the tender, tear drop-shaped fruits as soon as they’re ready, they fall to the ground or are devoured by squirrels, creating a sticky mess that’s popular with bees.
If you find yourself with more figs than you can handle, then turn them into fig preserves. The sweet, jammy preserves get a lift from fresh lemon and orange, which also help thicken it. For a soft herbal note, toss in a sprig of rosemary.
These preserves only require a few ingredients and will keep for months in the fridge or longer when canned. It’s wonderful served with cheese, or use it anywhere you would a fruit jam.
What Are Fig Preserves?
There are two main types of fig preserves: the first are thick jam-like mixtures with big hunks of fruit that you can see, making for an attractive spread with a bit of texture. The fruit is cut into large pieces and isn’t completely cooked down into a uniform jam. You can commonly find preserves made with a variety of fruit, like berries.
The other version of fig preserves are whole figs that are poached in a sugar syrup for preserving. This is a common method for canning figs in the American South, but not the method I used here. Instead, this recipe makes a gooey, sweet, chunky mixture that can be spread on toast or smeared on cheese.
Tips for Making Fig Preserves
Since these chunky, thick preserves do not contain any added pectin, it takes a bit more time and attention to make than some other jams do. Here are a few tips for successfully making fig preserves:
- Don’t adjust the sugar: If you’re watching your sugar intake or just don’t like foods that are too sweet, you may be tempted to decrease the amount of sugar in this recipe. Resist the urge. The sugar not only allows the preserves to properly set up, it also helps to preserve it. If you’d like to add less sugar, expect runnier preserves, and don’t attempt to can it.
- Don’t skip the lemon: Since this recipe does not contain added pectin and figs have so-so pectin content, the lemon is key. The acidic juice helps to lower the pH of the mixture and set the preserves. Bonus: it also adds a nice flavor and helps balance the sweetness.
- Be patient: The cook time can vary quite a bit depending on your figs, your stove, the pot, and if Venus and Jupiter are in alignment. Be patient as you cook down the preserves, watching for the tell-tale signs that it has set. Don’t walk away for too long or you could scorch or overcook the preserves.
- Use your senses: Making jam is a process that is best guided by your senses—you’ll know the preserves are ready when they sound, look, and feel thick. If you’re new to jam-making, use a thermometer and keep testing the preserves using the frozen plate method described below until it’s ready.
The Best Figs for Fig Preserves
Fresh, ripe figs are best for making fig preserves. This includes mild green figs or black mission figs, which offer slightly different flavor profiles. Look for figs that are ripe but somewhat firm and not mushy. The fruit should be free of bruises and mold. Figs don’t keep for long once they’ve been picked, so buy or harvest figs just before you plan to use them.
Dried figs won’t work for this recipe. You can use frozen figs, just thaw them first. You can skip letting the chopped figs and sugar sit before cooking—just toss them together in the pot, add the other ingredients, and start cooking.
To Can or Not to Can
While this recipe is safe for canning thanks to the amount of sugar and lemon juice as well as the cooking process, it’s certainly not required. You can skip sterilizing the jars and processing in a water bath and store the fig preserves in the fridge. It’ll keep for a few months.
For longer storage, pack the preserves into sterilized jars, remove any bubbles, and top with new, clean lids. Process for 5 minutes, then let cool. Check to make sure they’ve sealed, then store in the pantry for 1 year.
Read More: Water Bath Canning for Beginners
How to Serve Fig Preserves
Fig preserves pair incredibly well with cheeses, especially salty blue cheese, nutty Gruyere, and tangy goat cheese. I don’t make a cheese board without it. Serve it alongside your next charcuterie or spread it on grilled cheeses or other sandwiches.
You can also use fig preserves like other fruit jams and preserves, spreading it on toast, English muffins, and scones. It’s also tasty with salty meat like pork.
Jams, Jellies, and Preserves, Oh My!
The cook time and processing time will increase if you live at high altitude. Refer to this guide when making adjustments.
Yields for canning recipes tend to vary. If you end up with an odd amount at the end, like 1/4 of a jar, stick it in the fridge and enjoy it within a month or so.
2 pounds (900g) fresh, ripe figs
2 cups (400g) sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
1 sprig fresh rosemary, optional
- 3 half-pint canning jars
- 3 clean new lids and screw-on metal bands
- Jar lifters
- Canning funnel
- Tall stockpot, for the water bath
- Rack for the stockpot
Prepare the figs and orange:
Wash the figs and remove the stems. Cut them into roughly 1-inch chunks and add to a non-reactive, heavy-bottomed, medium to large saucepan with high sides. Add the sugar and stir to coat the figs. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel the orange into long strips. You’ll need 2 strips for this recipe. Set aside the rest of the orange for another use.
Place a small plate in the freezer so you can test that the preserves are properly set later.
Sterilize the jars and prepare for canning (optional):
If you’d like to can these preserves for longer storage, gather supplies for water bath canning. Fill a canning pot or a large, tall pot with a rack in the bottom with enough hot water to cover the empty half-pint jars by at least 1 inch.
Bring to a full rolling boil and boil for 10 minutes. Turn the heat to low and keep the jars in the hot water until the preserves are ready.
If you’re planning to store the preserves in the refrigerator, it’s still a good idea to clean the jars and lids with hot, soapy water before filling.
Meanwhile, simmer the preserves:
Add the orange peel, lemon juice, water, and rosemary (if using) to the pot with the figs and sugar.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the mixture thickens and runs off the spoon in thin globs rather than a stream, roughly 35 to 50 minutes.
As the preserves thicken, you’ll need to store the mixture more often to keep it from scalding on the bottom of the pot. Towards the end it will have decreased in volume by half and be shiny and thick.
Test the preserves:
The preserves are done cooking and properly set when the mixture registers 220°F on a thermometer or passes the gel test.
Once you think your preserves are ready, grab the small plate from the freezer. Add a small dollop on the plate and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes. If the dollop is thin and spreads, the preserves are not ready. If the dollop stays in more of a mound, swipe your finger through the middle. If it leaves a bare track and the jam doesn’t run to fill it in, the preserves are ready.
If using a thermometer, make sure the bulb or probe probe is immersed in the preserves enough to get an accurate reading. Often it needs to be at least 2 inches deep.
Add to jars:
Remove the orange peels and rosemary (if using) and discard.
If you are canning the preserves, remove the hot jars from the water one at a time using jar lifters, pouring the water back into the pot. Each jar should be hot when you add the preserves. Set them on a heatproof surface.
Carefully fill each hot jar with the hot preserves, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Wipe the rims clean with a damp, clean paper towel. Poke the mixture with a chopstick or skewers to remove any bubbles.
Top each jar with a clean lid and screw the bands on finger-tight.
Process in a water bath (optional):
For shelf-stable canning, bring the pot of water back to a boil. Make sure there is enough water in the pot to reach 1 inch or more over the top of the jars.
Using a jar lifter, set the jars in the pot on the rack and process at a full rolling boil for 5 minutes. Remove and set on a cooling rack or heatproof surface to cool.
Store and enjoy:
Let the preserves cool on the counter until room temperature, at least 1 hour.
Sealed jars will keep for at least 1 year, but are best consumed within 12 months. Un-processed jars and opened jars should be kept in the fridge and used within 3 months. If any mold forms on top of the preserves, discard.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 31g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||8%|
|Total Sugars 27g|
|Vitamin C 32mg||159%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|