When making just a small batch fig jam, we do not have to worry about canning. We will be eating it all in a flash, delicious on crostini with goat cheese, walnuts and honey. It is the perfect 'cheese and crackers' jam, as it is not too sweet and works beautifully with savory dishes.
I am all about making my own jams, and I am also quite particular about them. For example, I love homemade raspberry jam (like the one in these raspberry white chocolates), but I definitely prefer wild raspberries and I always make it no-cook aka freezer jam.
That is something we call rørt syltetøy or stirred jam in Norwegian. It is simply stirred together. Easy peasy! That is what I love to do with strawberries as well.
The no-cook freezer jams are much fresher and preserve the real flavor of the fruits and berries. But figs, figs need to be cooked. Just like gooseberries, red currants, apricots and probably a bunch of other fruits and berries as well. By long-cooking them we bring out their best flavor. They aren't as juicy as say raspberries on their own, so they need to be cooked to release their juices.
Long-cooking jam is literally just cooking the jam for longer than quick-cooking jam. It takes around 30-40 minutes, but it will depend a little on the fruits chosen. In this case, I found my jam to be ready in 40 minutes, but it can take up to an hour. Long-cooking the jam means you caramelize the fruits, and I think figs are so perfect for that.
Sugar and gelling
The question whether we need to use sugar in fig jam, really boils down to how you are going to eat it. Are you going to eat it right away, then you don't have to add sugar. Not using sugar though, the figs will probably not become jelly enough to spread on a crostini or bread without it running all over the place.
Sugar has especially two properties here (apart from flavor): sugar both help preserve and gel the jam.
Cooking the jam for longer means that you can get away with using less sugar, which makes it taste more figgy (if that's not a word, it is now). However, they say you need 3 cups of sugar per 4 cups of fruit for it to properly gel, and I only have half of that in this recipe.
If you want to make it more like fig jelly, feel free to add 1 ½ cups of sugar (300g) instead of the ¾ cups (150g) originally in the recipe. It will obviously be sweeter, but sugar is delicious too so.
When to know when the jam is done
The gelling stage happens at a temperature of 220F (104C) - if you are at sea level that is. Different altitudes require other temperatures. That means that the jam should have the right consistency here. However, if you don't have a thermometer, you can test it by putting a plate in the freezer when you start cooking the jam.
When it has boiled for 20 or so minutes, take out the plate and add a dollop of the jam mixture on it. Let it sit for 30 seconds and then try to spread the backside of a spoon through the jam. Does the jam run back down or has the spoon created a well when you turn the plate vertically?
It is done when the jam is separated when you run a spoon into it, so if it runs back, just continue to boil the jam for another 10 minutes, and do the test again. Just remember to always use a freezer cold plate when testing.
About the pectin
Quick-cooking jams need some added pectin to form a gel, but long-cooking jams don't need to because the cooking brings out the pectin that is naturally in the fruits. I have no problem with using pectin, and I use that for no-cook freezer jams, but I don't add it if I don't need to. Pectin can also be quite hard for people with IBS.
It is super satisfying making red currant jelly without pectin, but sometimes it doesn't really work. A trick you could use is to combine unripe and ripe fruit (like I have done here). This is because ripe fruit have less pectin in them, but they also taste better.
According to Seed to Pantry, to make a gelling jam we need three things: sugar, pectin and acid. Sugar absorbs the water, pectin is the soluble fiber which thickens the jam, while acid acts as the matchmaker between the other two.
Low acid fruits
All fruit have some form of acid in them, but the amount vary. That means that fruits with a lot of acid, do not need any additional acid to make the jam, but some need more help. Fruits high in acid are cranberries, citrus fruits, rhubarb, pineapple and kiwi, while fruits low in acid are figs, sweet cherries, pears, peaches, plums.
To cope with the low acid, we often add extra lemon juice to these recipes. That is why I have ½ lemon in this recipe. But the lemon also brightens up and enhances the flavors of the fig jam. Just like with this green smoothie, it is super bland without the lemon but the flavors really pop after just a touch of lemon. Funny how that works.
In this fig jam I have two secret ingredients. Those are green cardamom and balsamic vinegar. I think figs have this mild berry and honey like flavor profile. Some genius found out that balsamic vinegar is perfect with strawberries so I thought why shouldn't it work with berry tasting figs! I knew they worked with blackberries too, in this blackberry basil balsamic glaze.
Since I'm not a huge fan of fig jam on toast for breakfast, I wanted to savorize it a little, as I think fig jam is much better as a cheese and crackers jam, than breakfast jam. Does that make sense? I think I'm too much of a sissy to add balsamic vinegar to my breakfast jams.
Anyway, the honey aspect of the figs' flavor profile works amazingly with warming spices and one of my favorite warming spices is cardamom. I just crushed 3 green cardamom pods and added them to the jam and let me tell you - I did not regret that! What a wonderful combination!
However, balsamic vinegar and cardamom are mentioned as optional in the recipe card because you will still get a very delicious basic fig jam without them too!
Bonus recipe: Fig jam and goat cheese crostini
Can we all agree that figs are the symbol of the end of summer and start of fall? That's why figs are perfect with more comforting dishes with bread and cheeses. My absolute favorite way to eat it is on crostini with creamy goat cheese and fresh herbs like basil and thyme.
How to make crostini: Pre-heat oven to 450F (230C) and slice a crusty French bread in ⅓-1/2 inch (About 1 cm) slices. Diagonal if you're feeling fancy. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Brush both sides. Bake on the upper rack in the oven for about 6-9 minutes (8 was perfect in my oven). Once golden, take them out and sprinkle with coarse sea salt (or Maldon salt). Crostini done!
When crostini is done, you now have endless possibilities. Spread a generous amount of creamy goat cheese (In Norway I love Snøfrisk, especially the one with dill), fig jam, fresh figs if you like, maybe some walnuts and top with herbs. The dill cheese is perfect with fresh chives, but classic goat cheese is better with fresh basil. Or maybe add some cured meat for that salty surprise!
However, the fun thing about crostini is that you can make one crostini that way and the other a completely different way!
Other ways to serve fig jam
- Cheeses: Figs are delicious with blue cheese and gorgonzola (for those that like blue cheese), but I think goat cheese is THE cheese for figs. If you find that to be too sharp as well, you can use feta cheese or even just mild mozzarella. There's something about that tangy, creamy cheese with the sweetness from the figs. Baked brie would also be perfect.
- Cured meat: along with the bread and cheeses, figs and fig jam are soo good with cured meat, and especially prosciutto!
- Chocolate: Dark chocolate is also amazing with figs, so this fig jam would be a delicious filling for chocolates!
- Bread: Instead of crostini, you can use crackers, scones or even just regular toast and spread the jam on for breakfast. Instead of blackberries, use figs and fig jam in this blackberry grilled cheese. They both work with many of the same flavors! Or you could try this brie and prosciutto panini.
- Pizza: Yes, you can add pretty much anything on pizza, and figs and fig jam are so good on a fall pizza like this fig and prosciutto pizza. Or make them into pastry pockets with pear and ham!
How to make it
To make this easy small batch fig jam recipe we will first need to prepare the figs. The entire fig is edible, but I like to remove the harder stems. Cut the figs into quarters if you like a chunky jam or roughly/finely chop according to your preference. In these photos I have them quartered, but I changed my mind and roughly chopped them instead (final photos are of roughly chopped).
Add the figs and all the other ingredients apart from the vanilla extract to a medium saucepan. If using a vanilla bean instead, cut it open, scrape out the seeds and add the seeds and beans to the saucepan before boiling.
Bring it up to a boil while constantly stirring, then let it boil on low heat, covered for about 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally. Check for doneness by putting a tiny bit of jam on a cold plate after 20 minutes (and check every 5-10 minutes after until done). It is done when you run the backside of a spoon through the jam on the cold plate and the jam does not run back, creating a clear path inbetween. This is at a temperature of about 220F (104C).
This is a small batch fig jam that yields about 1 cup, which I think is perfect. You usually only need a small amount for a crostini anyway. If you like small batch ideas, you could also try this pumpkin crème brûlée, chocolate raspberry cake, chai cake or lemon blueberry cake!
Once it is done, pour it into a clean glass jar. Let it cool before putting on the lid. Store in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Best served on crostini with creamy goat cheese and fresh herbs like basil or thyme. Enjoy!
Did you like this recipe? Here are more fruity recipes I think you will like:
- Super easy blackberry syrup
- Raspberry jam filled white chocolates
- Classic blueberry pie
- Lemon curd and blueberry cake
- Fennel grapefruit salad with pomegranate vinaigrette
- Homemade berry cordial
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