In our garden, tomatoes, peppers, and okra come into their own this time of year, but they are outshone by the figs that are ripening by the gallon on our three bushes. The birds and the june bugs are drunk on their soft sweetness and so are we.
In my last book, Death’s Half Acre, my protagonist, Judge Deborah Knott, was apprehensive when her new husband, Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Bryant, planted a garden that kept getting bigger. “I don’t can and I don’t freeze,” she warned him. That book ended before the garden began to bear and she’s off to a judges’ conference at the beach in Sand Sharks, so I don’t really know if she’s going to carry out her threat.
Somehow I doubt it.
Like me, Deborah grew up on a working farm and did her share of peeling tomatoes, shelling beans, and picking fruit, so I find it hard to believe she wouldn’t want to put a few packages of homegrown vegetables in the freezer or stir up at least one batch of jam.
Even though I’m coming down to the wire with my 2010 book, I had to take some time off this past week and dig out my aunt’s recipe for fig preserves. Once upon a time, I used to make jams and jellies from every fruit on the farm, but several years ago I noticed that the jars that disappeared quickest from the pantry shelves were the fig preserves. I cut back on the strawberry, blackberry, apple, and blueberry jams until now this is the only fruit I put up. I even make enough to send some home with houseguests who rave about it after eating it for the first time on breakfast biscuits or toast. It’s a super-easy recipe, so if you have access to figs, try this:
AUNTIE’S FIG PRESERVES
• In a large pot, layer 8 lbs of figs and 5 lbs of sugar and 1 diced whole lemon (minus the seeds and white internal membranes.) Refrigerate overnight.
• Add 1 – 2 tablespoons pickling spice.
• Boil till thick and translucent, then seal in clean hot jars.
• Makes about 10 pints.
If your jars, rings and lids are all good and hot (I keep mine in a roasting pan in the oven at 225° until ready to fill), the jars will seal without a pressure canner or water bath.
I’ve almost finished writing Christmas Mourning, and I haven’t yet taken a peek inside Deborah and Dwight’s pantry, but I’m willing to bet that there’s at least one batch of fig preserves on the shelf.