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Sugar High Friday: Fig-Sesame Jam

August 25, 2006

Fresh Figs

The first time I tried a fresh fig I was disappointed. Here I had been reading these incredibly loving descriptions of fresh figs, plump and ripe and dripping with juice, holding their own against prosciutto, baked duck, and heavy cream. But the first time I eagerly bit into a bright slice of fig I winced at the watery non-taste - a pale, remote sweetness that had none of the rich succulence I expected.

Now, maybe I just had bad figs. Maybe I still haven't found the right ones. But I was left with handfuls of figs and disillusionment. Nothing like having your foodie illusions a little dashed. Bummer.

So I was flipping through the web, looking for something to do with them. I ended up with a jam recipe from Epicurious. It couldn't hurt to try.

Fresh Figs

I sliced up the figs, piling them into a heavy pan, added some sugar and water and let them simmer for a long, long time. Pretty soon they smelled fantastic, like a rich, caramel fruit.

The recipe called for a final addition of toasted sesame seeds. I was somewhat suspicious about this. But I put them in anyway, and they turned out to be the toasty, savory note that this rich jam needs. It's a sweet, meaty, confection with toffee-like chunks of jammy fig, and the crunchy specks of fig and sesame seeds lend a wonderfully varied texture on a well-toasted English muffin. This was the rich fig taste I'd been imagining.

Fresh Figs

So with black figs cheap at the produce stand again, tempting in their green plastic baskets, the jam that showed me what figs are for, in my kitchen anyway, was the natural entry for Delicious Days' installment of : Can You Can? concerning all things jam, jelly, marmalade and preserve-related.

Even though I always have at least half a dozen jars of jams, jellies and marmalades in my refrigerator, it's always a delight to add one more! Besides, none of the current offerings are homemade. I have gooseberry and cloudberry, from IKEA, a jar of June Taylor's fabulous Meyer lemon and rosemary marmalade, the last precious bits of a boozy apricot hazelnut jam from Bakerina, some mango vanilla butter from the farmer's market, and a few well-respected stand-bys from the grocery: red currant, raspberry, and apricot. Actually writing all that down makes me realize that I may have a problem.

But in spite of its excellent competition, this really is my favorite jam - all the better for being fresh and homemade. I've mixed it into honey ice cream; I've eaten it on bread and toast; I've stirred it into plain yogurt for a sweet and nutty lunch. It's just that good, and it never lasts long.

Fig-Sesame Jam
Adapted from Epicurious

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water, divided
2 lb firm-ripe fresh figs, trimmed and cut into small pieces
2 (3- by 1-inch) strips fresh lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons dark rum
1/4 cup sesame seeds

1. Toast sesame seeds in a heavy pan over medium heat until they are a shade darker. Set aside to cool.
2. Simmer sugar and 1 cup of water in a large heavy saucepan, stirring, until sugar is dissolved.
3. Gently stir in figs, zest, rum and lemon juice and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy. Depending on the size of your pan and heat level this could take just under an hour or twice that long.
4. As the jam becomes, well, jam-like, check the consistency. If it seems too thick and chunky for your taste, stir in a little of the remaining water.
5. When it looks properly jammy, remove from the heat and gently stir in the sesame seeds.
6. The jam will keep, covered in the fridge, for a month or two - if you can keep your hands off it that long.

Posted by Faith at 25 August 2006

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Mmmm, lovely pictures for a very unusual jam! I actually never had fig jam before!

Posted by: Bea at La Tartine Gourmande at August 25, 2006 06:52 AM

Thanks, Bea! Yes, it's very good and so easy. This was the first jam I ever made and I was like - this is all it takes? Awesome.

Posted by: faith at August 25, 2006 12:02 PM

Faith, this jam sounds amazing. I too had a pretty bad first experience with figs, I think I had ones that were underipe, so I didn't get to experince the full flavour and was quite disappointed.
However your fig jam is absolutly delightful, a great entry to SHF.

Posted by: jenjen at August 26, 2006 08:39 AM

I so agree about the figs! I always say they´re between sugary mush and nowhere. But you make a convincing case for jamming them. Will try the next time I go somewhere with fig trees.

Posted by: lobstersquad at August 27, 2006 04:09 PM

i really wanted to make fig jam as well, but couldn't find ripe ones here... the addition of sesame sounds intriguing enough to try as soon as I can get my hold on good figs! thanks for sharing the recipe!

Posted by: johanna at August 28, 2006 12:42 PM

It's lovely. I can imagine a morning toast with your jam and a cup of coffee... yummy!

Posted by: gagatka at August 28, 2006 02:06 PM

I felt the same way about figs - just could never understand what all the fuss was about. Then my parents moved into a house with a huge fig tree in the yard, and my father, who had never cared much for cooking, decided that he had to do something with all those figs. He got a recipe from my grandmother for fig preserves with lemon, and for the next several years - until they sold that house - he made fig preserves every summer. Oh, that was good stuff... and now, see your gorgeous fig jam, I miss it.

Posted by: Kimberly at August 29, 2006 12:38 AM

I've made this jam and it's delicious - it's great on toast but spectacular on good bread with a sharp blue cheese, kind of like a nutty quince paste

Posted by: Georgia at August 29, 2006 05:14 AM

Hi Faith!
I’m glad to read you as well haven't had a perfect, juicy fig...(YET!)
I gave them another shot when I saw them in the 'Things to eat before you die' list, but they were, once more, very disappointing...
This Jam on the other hand sounds very promising and delicious (!) Thanks... =)

Posted by: julia at August 29, 2006 05:40 AM


Yours looks fabulous! Great minds must think alike, huh?

Posted by: michelle at August 29, 2006 10:28 AM

thanks for this great recipe!! i tried it yesterday. i added a cinnamon stick & more rhum(!). tastes great with blue cheese and some chopped pecans.

Posted by: Maia at September 8, 2006 02:18 PM

Thank you for this recipe, I will try it at home because my wgide allow me to play asphalt 8. One of my favorite racing game so far.

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