Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jamming in the posts.

Basically catching up to where I've been in recipe testing and the lot.

So a co-worker of mine has this massive fig tree that's been overwhelming her, and she offered to let my man and myself come over and pick through and grab some.  So after about an hour of mosquito bites, we returned home with a massive basket of figs.

Being entirely unfamiliar with these fruits, my boyfriend only moderately familiar, I sought out to process them quickly and with as little loss to over-ripening and mold as possible- jam.  The last time I made jam or canned anything was eons ago as a kid with my grandmother.  We used paraffin wax due to my grandmother's arthritis. Canning lids and figs, oh boy, two new things at once!

After searching through TasteSpotting's "fig jam" recipes, I was torn between two recipes ( A Good Appetite's Fig Jam, and kiss my spatula's Homemade Fig Jam), I ended up opting for A Good Appetite's recipe due to personal lack of Grand Marnier and having already bought the fruit pectin with suspicion that I may need it.

I'll go ahead and say now, I'm still moderately appalled at the concept of 7 cups of sugar.  It's a lot.  The recipe called for it and the pectin called for it, but it's a lot!  It was like a whole 5lb bag of sugar.  Even as a person that doesn't like artificial sweeteners, it was a lot of sugar.  7 cups!

Alas, 7 cups was a necessity as I found out I couldn't skimp on it for fear of wrecking the jam.  This is where I faced another small problem.  I basically needed the same pot for two functions.  My kitchen's wonderful stainless steel stock pot was needed for boiling the canning jars, but I had no stainless steel pot big enough for the 5 cups of figs and 7 cups of sugar.  I settled for boiling the jars in my stock pot, combining the base ingredients in my largest sauce/fry pan and then splitting it into another pot for adding the sugar.

Thankfully my kitchen also has two whisks so I was able to (mostly) simultaneously boil both mixtures with the sugar and then combine them into my largest mixing bowl.  Being a poor college kid, I don't have a potato masher; but I did break out the hand mixer to try and break up the larger fig halves that didn't get mashed by packing them into the measuring cup (I keep a 4 cup measuring cup, I just filled it to the top with packed figs, I figure it was close enough to 5 cups in the end) or whacked apart during the whisking.  There's still some decent sized fig-pieces in the jam, but we'll say they're there for "charm."

Overall, canning wasn't intimidating as much as it was a bit time consuming for me.  It felt like a genuine marathon.  I'll also point out that my batch yielded enough jam for 9 jars, with even a little bit still leftover.  The jam set up just fine, so apparently the excess didn't hurt anything.  The 7 cups of sugar are there, but aren't overpowering in that super-sweet-syrupy way.  I don't believe I used the full on 1/4 cup of lemon juice, I probably only added a couple tablespoons worth; you still get the bit of acidity though.  I absolutely loved the little touch of cinnamon (loving cinnamon a lot, I probably added closer to a teaspoon, I just eyeballed it as opposed to measuring it), it really added a nice layer of depth that seemed to match the figs just fine.  It's kind of like opening a jar of Christmas, which is probably what I'll save some of these jars for to give out as presents.

Overall, the recipe was super easy, though I suggest preparing by having two huge pots ready to go.  Lid-canning was ridiculously easy, just slightly time consuming as a first timer.  The jam is delicious, I'm pacing myself as to not overwhelm my appetite with it.  I definitely recommend the recipe, it'll just be a while before I charge myself up enough to take on another project like this.

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