How to Make Fig Preserves

Whole fruit canning just got a little sweeter.

Sweet preserved figs balance perfectly with goat cheese and prosciutto

Sweet preserved figs balance perfectly with goat cheese and prosciutto

Sweet preserved figs balance perfectly with goat cheese and prosciutto.

Sweet preserved figs balance perfectly with goat cheese and prosciutto.

Sweet and soft, fresh figs are a treat I missed out on as a kid. Growing up in the Midwest where cold winters make fig trees a less common sight, I was familiar with figs dried and in Newton form, but it wasn’t until I relocated to North Carolina that I discovered this often overlooked summer treat in its natural state. If you’ve never encountered one, figs are about the size of a large strawberry (depending on the type) with firm skin, soft flesh and a honey-sweet flavor somewhere between a peach and a pear. Figs can be eaten raw, cooked, or preserved in a variety of ways.

While the season for figs is fairly long, their shelf life is not. Figs do not continue to ripen once picked and will only last a few days before they begin to soften and break down. In my own yard, waiting out ripe figs and harvesting them before the birds get to them is a challenge that borders on an art form. Fresh figs are among my favorite seasonal snacks, but the bulk will be preserved to be appreciated all year long. Not such a bad thing. Fresh figs may be fleeting, but a well-preserved fig is a joy in its own right.

Figs can be dried, frozen or even pickled. Here in the South though, canning figs whole in simple syrup is a tradition it’s easy to embrace.  Fresh figs and lemon slices enjoy a slow simmer in bubbling sugar before being packed into canning jars and tucked away in the pantry until company comes calling (if they’re lucky). Sweet and syrupy, preserved figs can be eaten whole or mashed for use in baked goods or sliced for use as an ice cream or oatmeal topper. They are so tender, they can even be spread with a knife onto biscuits, toast or crackers. When teamed up with tangy goat cheese or brie and salty prosciutto and served on crostini, this old timey classic has a decidedly modern spin so delicious you may not wait for company to arrive before raiding the pantry.

If you are lucky enough to have access to fresh figs this summer, give this simple recipe for preserving them at home a try. Hurry though. The birds are circling.

Preserved Figs in Syrup

  • 6 cups fresh figs
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Wash figs and trim stems.

Cut lemon into very thin slices and remove seeds.

Combine water, sugar and cinnamon in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and add figs and lemon slices.

Cover and cook 45 minutes.

Transfer figs, lemon slices and syrup into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4" head space.

Cap with lids and bands and process in a water bath for 15 minutes.