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August 28, 2009

BALSAMIC PICKLED FIGS



BALSAMIC PICKLED FIGS AND WALNUTS



Growing up in New England I ate apples, a lot of apples. I didn’t taste a fig until well into my twenties. Figs were exotic, a mythical fruit I thought only existed in the pages of the Bible. I didn’t know it was a sacred tree in many religions. Buddha found enlightenment under The Bodhi Tree (a fig) and Hindus believe it is the tree of eternal life. Figs are the fruit of paradise.


When I tasted my first fig in Europe as a young woman, I was blown away (not unlike like Julia with the sole Meuniere). It’s ancient flavor of honey and hay with a touch of musk was revelatory for me.


Now I live in Southern California and have a fig tree in my back yard. I am still working on enlightenment. Sometimes I catch a glimmer of it in the kitchen.


Balsamic Pickled Figs while not exactly enlightened are delicious and a wonderful addition to your pantry. Serve them with anything salty or tangy, blue cheese, parmesan and prosciutto come to mind. They up the ante on any cheese plate and will be wonderful alongside braised and roasted meats come fall.




YIELD: 4 PINTS

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-4 lbs fresh figs
  • 3 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 6 cups water
  • 11/2 cup sage honey
  • 11/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup shelled halved walnuts
  • 16 peppercorns
  • 4 sprig thyme or rosemary
  • 4 strips of orange zest

METHOD

  1. Prick each fig a couple of time with a skewer. Place figs in a large pot and cover with boiling water. Gently swish the figs around. Cool. Repeat if necessary to clean figs. Drain.
  2. Combine vinegar ,water, sugar and honey in a large nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Carefully lower the figs into the simmering syrup. Simmer uncovered for twenty minutes, add the walnuts. Continue simmering for another 10-25 minutes depending on the size of your figs. The liquid should look slightly syrupy and the figs should be a little glossy .
  4. Arrange figs in jars, dividing the herbs and zest evenly between them. With a ladle pour the syrup over the figs leaving 1/2 inch of headroom.
  5. Close and seal the jars . Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

NOTES:

  • I would like to replace some of the water with orange juice next time .
  • Try some different herbs remembering that the balsamic can be overpowering. I tried lemon verbena and didn't taste it at all.
  • You skewer the fruit so that it absorbs the liquid and sinks.
  • I used sage honey because I love its flavor but any honey will do.
  • Use your own judgment when cleaning the figs. Homegrown figs tend to be sticky and sometimes need two rinses.


13 comments:

  1. This sounds delicious and slightly decadent! Will try soon. And, your Rugosa syrup is great with Gin/Tonic. BTW, I have made the Kickass Westport Pickles and Turnip Pickles from your blog... Love them!. This weekend, I made another one from Dan's book (Quick Pickles) Sweet-Hot Curried Zucchini Pickles. Very nice chutney-like flavors. I recommend them.... alone or on a tuna sandwich or...

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  2. Sounds delicious -- can you give me a bit more info on what it means to "process in boiling water bath?"

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  3. Ellen,
    Don't be afraid of a hot a hot water bath. It is an extra step of precaution to insure that you kill any nasty little spoilers that might linger in your jars and it provides a secure seal ensuring the shelf life of your goods. This sounds complicated but it’s really pretty simple.
    Find your largest stockpot and fit the bottom with something the jars can sit on an inch or so away from the bottom of the pan. I have used on various occasions, a vegetable steamer, a round cake rack, jar lids right side up etc. You do not need to buy a canning pot, but if you really want one check out http://www.freshpreserving.com/pages/home/258.php?pid=258&product=286, the Ball web site.
    Fill the pot about 2/3rds up with water and turn on low heat. Meanwhile your lids should be in hot water on the stove and your clean jars should be waiting (I like mine warm out of the dishwasher).
    When your jars are filled according to instructions, your lids are on and sealed, carefully lower them into the pot. The one tool I do recommend getting is a jar lifter, also available at BALL. I have made do with tongs many a time, but be careful, we don't want any burns. Fill the pot with more hot water to cover your jars by an inch. Cover and bring to a boil. Start timing at the boil. After required amount of time turn heat off. Let jars rest in pot for 5 minutes. Carefully remove jars to a heat safe surface (wood, folded towels etc. not a cold counter top).
    Consult the National Center For Food Preservation for more detailed instructions. http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/using_bw_canners.html

    I hope this helps, sorry it’s so long winded.
    nina

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  4. I made this and it's amazing! I made some subs, and here they are:

    I couldn't find reasonably priced sage honey, so I used mesquite honey from Trader Joe's.

    I added fresh sage, rosemary and thyme sprigs to each jar, and eliminated the peppercorns.

    I used the orange zest, and squeezed the juice of two oranges into the liquid.

    It's amazingly wonderful! I finished off a jar, and then strained the liquid and now I have fig balsamic vinegar to use as a salad dressing (it's great on my remaining tomatoes with mozzarella).

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  5. Your recipe looks so inviting I posed a link to your blog on my blog http://throwrockpaperscissors.blogspot.com/. I'm going to give it a try and finally be able to do something with the figs in my front yard.

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  6. Thanks for the mention. I am jealous that you have figs this time of year. This is an original recipe that I developed as I too was uninspired by most of the recipes I saw. Let me know how it comes out!

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  7. just discovered your blog and this sounds incredible...thanks for an idea to dream about in a dreary Canadian winter!

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  8. This looks lovely and delicious; I will definitely try it next fig season. I'm curious, though, why you call it 'pickled,' since it looks like it's really a conserve.

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  9. Dianna,
    It's sort of a hybrid. It has a healthy dose of vinegar so I call "pickled". When figs are in season give it a try. I hope you like it!

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  10. Boy this sounds wonderful.Can't wait till fig season rolls back around. I did some of your pears in vanilla syrup last summer. They were marvelous. Have you got any strawberry ideas? Our season is about to start.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

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  11. Hi all,

    Just ran across this post this morning, after making the Turkish Fig Jam (uhh, at 4:30AM...). Anyways, I'm wondering if I cut some of the balsamic with white balsamic if the white flavor would just get overwhelmed. I'd like to do all white, but it won't be as pretty and is kinda pricey.

    Jen

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  12. JEN,

    I would certainly try it. Maybe substitute orange juice for some of the vinegar. It would be pretty with green figs. Good luck and let me know how it came out.

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  13. Hi Nina,

    I made it last night trying to sub the OJ instead of the white balsamic. And it was really good, but I think I'd go less OJ next time. I used fresh oranges, but it seemed a little orangey. Of course I haven't tasted the processed ones yet. This was just from tasting out of the pot. And oh boy, did I make a mess. Also, I was boiling some figs for something else, and I ended up keeping the juice and straining it through cheese cloth a few times. And I made fig jelly, sooooo good. And it is a beautiful color. It almost looks like pink honey. Thanks!

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