When life gives you figs, you make yourself some fig jam. Or something. Right?
That's exactly how this story started and ended. Our friend's fig tree went berserk and produced an insane amount of figs this year! I mean, don't get me wrong- no complaints here! I love figs. He, not so much. He didn't know what to do with them all.
"Hey Christina. I've got figs. Lots. Do you want them? I've had fig newtons and those weird Italian fig cookies...and that's it. So, I really don't know what to do with them or know if I even like them."
Yes friend, yes. I definitely want them. So 7 pounds of ripe, fresh, organic figs later and I now had a problem: there was NO way my husband and I could consume this amount before they turned. Plus, my husband isn't the biggest fresh fig lover there ever was, which meant it was up to me to eat my cats' weight in figs. Like a fig cat. Whatever. Moving on.
So I gobbled a few, tried to persuade my husband into believing he did, in fact, really love fresh figs (didn't work) and then got busy making the rest into jam so that we could enjoy for weeks to come. Plus I figured, jam was easy to jar up into multiple cute little canning jars and gift away- which I really wanted to do. I love cooking/baking and sharing, don't you? I had already promised Mr. Fig Tree Producer Giver himself, that I would give him a bunch of jars (and even promised he'd become a lover of figs!) and also wanted to share with my family. So, I made two types: fig jam with bacon and a good ol fashioned fresh fig jam (which will be coming next week to the blog).
The thing about figs is, they're pretty basic in flavor- kind of just sweet! Which means they are VERY VERY easy to pair into yummy edible concoctions! One of my favorite ways to consume them is to wrap fresh with proscuitto and drizzle with honey OR wrap with bacon and bake until roasted and crispy. Figs love salty things like pig meat! I mean, in all honesty MOST things like pig meat.
That being said, I knew right away I wanted to make a jam that involved the salty smoky guy. PLUS my fig sharer friend LOVES bacon, so I knew that if I ever had a chance of persuading him to like figs, THIS would be my best bet.
The steps for the jam are pretty basic as far as jam making goes, but I've added the additional step of rendering the fat out of the apple wood smoked bacon (my favorite kind) so that we can include both the meat AND that liquid gold into the mix. Double the pig power? For sure! We want maximum bacon flavor in this, friends :)
The amount of bacon grease our bacon renders off is WAY too much for the jam, BUT don't throw it away! Whenever I cook bacon, I always drain that "liquid gold" into a glass jar and store for future usage! Sautéing veggies? Use some of that bacon grease! Cooking chicken? Bacon grease! And so on. It adds the yummiest, smoky bacon-ie, lovely flavor to anything you're cooking! Use it like you would oil or butter in your cooking that next week or so!
Now for the bacon fig jam.
Smoky, sweet, lightly salty, and lovely. We ate it on peanut butter and jellies, we dipped grilled chicken in it, we smeared in on sandwiches...I mean...it's so versatile! Being sweet, it stands firm in the jam department and goes great on things you'd use many jams on. But then with the little salty smoky component that peaks through- the jam becomes ALSO great on meats and veggies- anything on the savory side.
We're in love. I truly hope you fall in love too!
BACON AND FIG JAM
Makes about 3 cups
- 1/4 pound applewood smoked bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
- 2 tablespoons bacon grease, reserved after bacon is rendered
- 1 3/4 pounds fresh figs- washed, dried, stems removed, and cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1. First things first- render that bacon! In a medium sauce pot, cook your bacon pieces until they are crispy and slightly browned. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. SAVE THAT GREASE :) and reserve 2 tablespoons for later in the jam. Set aside.
2. Next, place a small salad plate in the freezer for our PLATE TEST we will be doing later on (will explain in directions later). Wipe pot of any black bits that might have formed when cooking the bacon. To your pot, add fig chunks, white sugar, brown sugar, paprika, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, water, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper- stir together well. Turn flame to medium and add your reserved grease and cooked bacon bits.
3. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn heat down until you reach a gentle simmer. Cook mixture, uncovered, 45 minutes, stirring occasionally so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. If things try to get too crazy and bubbly, turn mixture down until you regain a gentle simmer.
4. Turn heat off and either puree mixture with a stick blender OR carefully pour mixture into a blender or food processor. Blend until completely smooth. Pour mixture back into your sauce pot.
5. Turn heat to low and gently simmer jam for an additional 20 minutes or until the mixture passes the PLATE TEST, stirring a little more frequently to prevent burning on the bottom of the pan.
I love the plate test because it allows me to make jam and preserves without using a candy thermometer, which I really don't like doing! It couldn't be easier too!
Basically before you start your jam, place a small salad or dessert plate into the freezer. This allows ample time for your plate to get all frosty and frozen, while you cook your jam!
Then when you think your jam has thickened properly and is ready, simply remove the plate from the freezer and place a small dollop of jam on the surface. Let sit for a few minutes until the jam dollop has completely chilled (takes anywhere from 2-3 minutes). Sometimes I turn the heat off of my pot of jam while this test is doing it's thing. Remember, heated jam is ALWAYS more viscous than completely chilled jam. So you might think it's way too runny, but then after chilling on your plate find out it has actually totally set up and is perfect!
After your dollop is chilled, check- is the jam runny? More like a sauce than a jam? If so, keep cooking. Move the plate on it's side- is is slowly (like molasses) trying to go down the plate? Is it sitting pretty thick and looking very jam like? If so, perfect, you're done cooking!
If you need to continue cooking your jam, simply wipe off plate and place back in freezer. Turn heat back to medium or medium-low, bring jam to a simmer again and then turn heat to low to ensure continual gentle simmering. Continue cooking and stirring more frequently as the jam cooks down- also be careful of hot bubbles popping up during these last few minutes of cooking :) After 5 or so minutes, test again.
6. Once your jam has passed the PLATE TEST and you are happy with it's thickness and consistency, carefully spoon or pour HOT jam into cleaned and dried canning glass jars. You'll need this heat to help seal the self sealing jars. Like I always say, I typically use Ball or Kerr jars with the two piece metal self sealing lids. I love them and they're easy!
7. Allow jars of jam to sit on counter at room temperature until your self sealing lids POP and seal! This can take anywhere from 25-35 minutes. Then once sealing has happened, keep jam in fridge for up to 3 weeks!
So so so so so good! I'm such a lover of having ALL of my taste buds going at once with food. This hits all the spots! Sweet, salty, smoky, caramelized, fruity, meaty... I mean, YUM!
You can also spoon this onto grilled or baked meats, tofu or poultry OR serve along side a yummy cheese plate with crackers or crostini! Would also be delicious with burgers, grilled cheeses, or paninis!
For printable recipe, click here.