In September, I love figs best of all. I know, I know, you’re wondering how on earth I could choose figs over all the other fruits and vegetables in the height of their respective seasons. But I just can’t help myself– I hoard them and plot ways to eat them for every possible meal. The floral scent makes me swoon, the stickiness of a cut ripe fig is better than candy. And the season is so darn short! So, in September, I eat many figs.
Breakfast is easy: cold and creamy Greek yogurt with a few sliced or quartered figs and a drizzle of good honey is my current go-to meal to start the day. I also love a toasted whole-grain English muffin with goat cheese and sliced figs, and a little honey has been known to show up here as well. I like figs with granola and certain grain-ier cereals and I bet they would be fantastic on oatmeal, but I’m not in the oatmeal part of the year quite yet. Oatmeal comes when I can no longer comfortably wear short sleeves, and not a moment before.
Lunch can be trickier, but I am all about challenges. Figs perfectly compliment a salad made with peppery greens and a light vinaigrette, and the rosy color of a ripe fig against the bright greens is an aesthetic win. Going a bit farther, try a crusty baguette with some cheese and figs, broiled for a minute to make things gooey. Mmmm. (I used Iberico, but would love to also try brie, and goat cheese would work beautifully.)
One day last week, I went a little crazy, with impressive results. It was grocery day, which means I had no Iberico cheese, no salad greens, no baguette. What I did have: an ounce, maybe two, of roast chicken; some rice; a tiny bit of goat cheese; a lonely shallot; and 6 jars of freshly-canned balsamic fig spread. The shallot went into the pan with the tiniest bit of olive oil, salt & pepper and was allowed to do its shallot thing for a minute or two. Then, in went the chicken, just to warm through. With a spoonful of rice already in my little bowl, the chicken mixture followed, topped by a pretty generous teaspoonful of balsamic fig and the crumbles of goat cheese. Sweetness from the shallot and figs, richness from the balsamic vinegar and the tangy note of the cheese– Yum yum yum. If only every grocery day lunch could be this tasty and satisfying. And truthfully, the balsamic fig spread was the key element making this bowl work.
Though I made a fairly large batch of the balsamic fig spread and canned it, it is a flexible recipe. You could very easily make a smaller batch and just keep it in the fridge; I imagine it would keep well for at least a few weeks. I used some fresh figs, a mix of Black Mission, Kadota and (what I think were) Brown Turkey, but love that you can make this with dried figs in the off-season. Try it! Even if you don’t need a grocery day lunch, I think you might enjoy it. Think appetizer with goat cheese or cream cheese and crackers; an accompaniment to chicken or pork; even as a base element for a warm dressing or marinade. R and I may or may not have eaten half a jar with a spoon.
Balsamic Fig Spread
(adapted from Neo-Homesteading)
- 2 lbs of fresh figs (any type), stems removed, quartered*
- 1 c. water
- 1 1/2 cups of sugar**
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
In a large pot, combine figs, sugar and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 mins, stirring occasionally; remove from heat and allow to rest for 30-60 mins. Stir in vinegar and use an immersion blender, food processor or blender to process to your desired consistency– I kept some chunks for texture, but you can take it very smooth. Add more water or vinegar to thin the consistency, if needed. (Mine didn’t need any more liquid; this depends on the ripeness of your figs.) If you don’t plan to can it, you’re done: store in a tightly-covered container in the fridge for a few weeks (my best estimate).
If you’re canning, return the mixture to the pan and reheat to the boiling point. Ladle into sterilized jars and process in a water bath for 10 mins. (Please refer to water bath processing standards for your altitude, jar size, etc.) This made six half-pints for me. You can cut the recipe down if you want, but I am already worrying I don’t have enough…
*Can also be made with dried figs (18 oz.), though I have not done so yet. Increase the water to 1 1/2 c. if using dried, and you may need to adjust sugar as well.
**With fresh figs, especially when they’re very ripe, I will use less sugar next time. I prefer less-sweet as a rule, so adjust the sugar to your preference.