Northeast Times

Baked figs and fig preserves

  • Baked figs

  • Fig preserves

They’re as old as the hills. That’s as long as figs have been around. They are the an­tique trees of the garden - the old souls. Fig­ur­at­ively speak­ing, fig leaves played a stra­tegic role in the cov­er-up that went down in the Garden of Eden. Their gor­geous, big, showy leaves provided the first fash­ion state­ment – au naturel. Figs are, them­selves, de­li­cious eaten au naturel, that is, picked right off the tree. Who­ever says he “doesn’t give a fig” ap­par­ently has nev­er tasted one.

The fig tree was one of the first plants cul­tiv­ated by Neo­lith­ic people more than 11,000 years ago as far back as 9000 BC. Greeks and Ro­mans be­lieved that figs, sac­red food, were a gift from the gods. In 1560, fig trees were planted in Mex­ico. Fig trees came to our neck of the woods from Europe. They reached Vir­gin­ia in 1669 and then spread down the East Coast.

Who would have guessed it? The Eng­lish word “sy­co­phant” has its ori­gins in an an­cient Greek word mean­ing “re­veal­er of figs” or “one who shows the fig.” In those days, it was a cap­it­al of­fense to break in­to a garden and steal figs. A sy­co­phant, in an­cient Greek fig trade, was one who in­formed falsely on fig filchers. Figs were really a hot com­mod­ity back in the day!

Fresh figs are per­ish­able and will re­main good for only a few days. Among plants, figs are one of the highest sources of cal­ci­um and fiber. Figs are good in vari­ous pies, cakes and breads. They can be ad­ded to oat­meal, quartered and ad­ded to a mesclun salad (bit­ter greens) with shaved parmes­an, poached in red wine, or made in­to jam. Fig leaves are nat­ur­al wrap­pers. They were the pre­curs­or of alu­min­um foil, and can keep fish in­tact in­side the leaves while it cooks on the grill.

I’m giv­ing a shout-out to my broth­er, John, who grew the best figs. His boun­ti­ful trees pro­duced jars of fig pre­serves, year after year. My tree, a bit young­er, is not quite as pro­duct­ive yet, but my neigh­bor shared her bounty with me, and these are the re­cipes I used to make Fig Pre­serves and Baked Figs.

FIG PRE­SERVES

2 pints fresh figs, stems

re­moved

½ cup wa­ter

1 cup sug­ar

½ lem­on, cut in­to thin

slices

-In a 2-quart sauce­pan, com­bine the figs and sug­ar and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes un­til mushy and syr­upy, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally. Add the lem­on slices and cook an­oth­er 15 minutes, un­til the syr­up thick­ens.  

The fol­low­ing dessert is warm, full of fruit and wal­nuts and very easy to make. It’s a good, quick fin­ish to din­ner and also makes an el­eg­ant-look­ing dessert for com­pany.

BAKED  FIGS

Fresh Figs

Vanilla Yogurt

Chopped Wal­nuts

Brown Sug­ar

Am­ar­etto (Op­tion­al)

Honey

Vanilla Ice Cream

-Pre­heat oven to 375 de­grees

-Ar­range figs in an oven-proof dish. Cut a cross in­to the top of figs and open to form a star.

-Place a spoon­ful of yogurt in the cen­ter of each fig and sprinkle with brown sug­ar and a splash of Am­ar­etto.

-Scat­ter wal­nuts around the figs.

-Bake for 20 minutes.

-Drizzle honey over whole dish and serve. Make sure each plate gets some of the syr­up over the fig and wal­nuts.

Op­tion­al: Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Last week, my neigh­bor Jen told me the squir­rels were really eat­ing the figs from her tree. “That means we’re go­ing to have a cold winter,” she said. I checked with the Farm­er’s Al­man­ac, and it is pre­dict­ing a cold winter, too.

Now, Chan­nel 6 may have Cecily with Ac­cuWeath­er StormTrack­er radar, and NBC10 First Alert Weath­er has Sheena Parveen, but I’ve got my money on my friend, Jen. I don’t want to cause a weath­er girls storm here, but I think she just might know a thing or two — and maybe a fig or two!

Eat well, live long, en­joy! ••

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at Whats­cook­in­NEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the North­east Times, 2512 Met­ro­pol­it­an Drive, Tre­vose, PA 19053)

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