This fig tree is in our back yard. We cut it all the way down to the ground once, and it came back even bigger than ever. Each summer around late June, we begin racing the birds to get the figs. They get some, and we get some. [Click here for larger view.]
When our figs start coming in, we pick them twice daily. We wash them and hold them in the refrigerator until we have a few quarts. Then, we can them in Mason jars.
We cut the stem off the figs and then slice each fig in half. You might prefer to cut them into quarters. Use 1/2 to one cup of sugar for each cup of cut figs. Place into a heavy dutch oven. Add a bit of water (1/2 cup or so) to prevent scorching. (The USDA recommends adding a bit of lemon juice. It’s probably a good idea to follow their instructions.)
Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently until well combined. Simmer for about 3 or 4 hours.
In the meantime, prepare the jars, lids, and bands. We use a 5 gallon stock pot. Place jars and lids in the pots and fill the pot with enough water to cover the jars by 1 or 2 inches. Bring to a near simmer and cover the pot. Allow the jars and lids to steam this way for at least 20 minutes.
We also sterilize our ladle and a canning funnel, as well as our tongs and a “mechanic’s magnet*.” When ready to can, carefully remove a jar to a dinner plate set next to the fig mixture.
Ladle preserves into the jar filling to about 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. With the mechanic’s magnet, retrieve a lid and place in position on the jar. Tighten the band snugly. Set aside on a towel. Repeat until all the preserves are canned.
Return jars to the water bath, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and process at least 45 minutes. Carefully remove jars and set on towel to cool. Do not re-tighten the bands. You will hear the lids make a “popping” sound as the jars cool, and the resulting vacuum pulls the lids tight.
When cool enough to touch, test each lid by pressing with your finger. Any lid that moves up and down under finger pressure is not sealed properly. Either use immediately, or reseal and re-process. Date each jar with a magic marker.
*We have a tool that is a telescoping car radio antenna with a strong magnet on one end and an alligator clip on the other. The magnet end is what you need. Check at kitchen specialty stores or at the local auto parts store for a similar tool. If you can’t find one, you can use the long tongs to retrieve the lids.
Here is a recipe for Fig Preserves Pie. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s on my to-do list.