Figs, figs, figs. Now’s the time for the abundance of this tasty fruit. Must be something unique and July 15. When that day comes around, the figs magically ripen. Those little green knobs hang around forever. Teasing us with their lusciousness. And then – bam.
Our tree is loaded. Hundreds of them. Pruning and feeding has rewarded us with bounty. Aimee picked twice on Saturday.
With all the figs that many of us have, decisions must be made about what to do. Figs don’t keep well at all. Sitting out isn’t good. In the fridge is worse. Eat them or lose them is absolutely true.
Of course, fig preserves come to mind. Hard to get much better for us lovers of this sweet treat. Let them bathe in sugar before a trip to the sauna. That’s about all it takes to make a fine batch. A touch of lemon or orange is nice. But a “keep-it-simple-stupid” approach is a mighty good one.
I like to keep some pretty whole figs and include a few of those in each jar. These add a burst of warm summer memories come February.
Many of the figs grown locally have a red interior with a dark but not actually black skin. This hint of red makes for attractive jams and preserves. When left to ripen on the tree, they often burst open on their own. You need to share with the birds and wasps.
Perhaps my favorite preparation is fig mostarda. I’ll share my recipe with you at In the Kitchen with Chef Jim on Facebook. Works well with grilled meats plus on an English muffin in the morning. The yellow mustard seeds are the key.
A new one for me this year is fig and balsamic chutney. What I did was clean a cup of ripe figs, cut them in half and put in a small food processor. To that, I added 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of balsamic glaze. Plus a touch of black pepper. I whizzed it until just slightly chunky.
It looks great and no cooking required. This is for refrigerator storage and within-a-week consumption. No problem with that. We had ours as an accompaniment to smoked ribs with a spicy rub. Perfect combination. Any grilled or roasted meat works well with this chutney. Stir in chopped pistachios for an added crunch.
Interestingly, figs and peaches are good friends. Tomatoes do well with peaches. We put them all together in a salad. Their own juices plus olive oil, garlic, basil and a shake of Tony’s to make a fine lunch.
Go further and make this mix the center of a pasta sauce. Let the heat of the pasta warm the sauce just enough. We used farfalle and added chunks of blue cheese to ours. This is a fine combination.
One time we macerated figs and peaches separately. Once the sugar dissolved and the juices flowed, we mixed in some cream. Each was good. But together, better and somehow sweeter. A great treat especially adding a splash of vanilla. Use on ice cream or make your own using this mix as the fruit.
One more dessert. Add beaten eggs to the fruit mix above and more cream. Bake in individual buttered ramekins for a surprise custard. Garnish with fig half.
Bacon-wrapped figs aren’t bad either. So are sweet figs added to your favorite barbecue sauce. Better stop now.
You don’t have long. Grab as many fresh figs as you can and enjoy right away.
Jim Sikes is an Opelika resident; a food, wine and restaurant consultant; and a columnist for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him on Facebook at In the Kitchen with Chef Jim.