September 1, 2011

FIGS, FIGS, FIGS





So what is it about figs that has everybody atwitter....Before I left the United States this month, I had a phone call from my son in Atlanta....his fig crop was exceptional....exceptionally prolific!  And then, I was facebooking with my friend, Dorette Snover of C'est si Bon in Chapel Hill.  She, too, was covered up with figs.  Now I am in Provence and I am greeted by tubs of figs.  Nous crulons sous les figues! Perhaps the excitement is because it is one of the few truly seasonal fruits.  We know we won't have them any other time of the year plus we really don't see that many in the grocery stores.....they are a farmer's market purchase or a tree in your back yard. 

So Dorette and I decided to both blog about our figs this week. See her at www.plantingcabbages.com

 


The plump, purple variety shown here is Soli├Ęs-Pont, named for a village here in the Departement du Var.  Sollies Pont is also home of the Fete de la Figue, an August festival that celebrates this ancient fruit.  This is the fig that I have come to know and love.  In the American South, it is mostly the small brown turkey fig.....to me, a different fruit that is good in its own way, but nothing like the purple fig of Provence. 

So what is a girl to do with so many figs.....Well, you might see me sneaking out the back door where just steps away I can feast to my heart's content.  But Xavier might have other ideas....there are jars of fig confiture dancing in his head.....and I mean lots of jars.  So far this year, the count is 220!  Read on for recipes and lots of uses for everything fig......Then don't miss the end......where there is No Fig Leaf for Apollo!


So here is Xavier's recipe for the most popular confiture we put on the table for our groups.  It is divine on a croissant or in your breakfast yogurt.

But not just for breakfast, we make a Shallot Fig  Confit to use with Pan Seared Magrets (duck breasts) or MJ will use it as a topping for the Duck Rillettes on Crostinis at cocktail hour.  To make the confit: carmelize shallots, deglaze with a light red wine vinegar and add some fig confiture. Reduce. Season with salt. Taste for sweet/sour balance & adjust. If you have no duck rillettes, then use shredded barbecue.


FIG CONFITURE

1 KILO (2.2 lbs) FRESH PURPLE FIGS,  QUARTERED (or halved in small)
1 HEAPING TBS. ZEST DE CITRON CONFIT (below)
700 GRAMS RAW SUGAR (1 1/2 lbs)*
JUICE OF ½ LEMON
  (Photo is 7-8 kilos)
In a large pot, combine figs, citron confit, and 1/2 cup water and 2 pinches salt.  Bring to a simmer.  Slowly cook down the figs. Stir often. They will melt down and skins will soften. This takes about 15-20 minutes.  Add sugar.  Increase heat to fast boil. Cook 15-20 minutes stirring constantly. About 5 minutes before end, add juice of ½ lemon. Reduce heat.  

Remove from heat.  Continue to stir to dissipate heat….about 3-4 minutes. Fill jars to top.  If reusing old jars, invert jars while cooling.  Lids will reseal.

NOTES: When going from sweet and more pulpy fruit such as pears, figs, apricots to more acidic watery fruits such as strawberry, raspberry, you add more sugar to the latter (750-800 gms per kilo) 
 
Short fast cooking time after sugar is added will give you the best flavor.  Long cooking time destroys the color and flavor.

*Raw sugar is the free flowing sugar that is less processed than white sugar.  I buy the Florida Crystals that comes in a plastic jug.  It is not turbinado sugar....too coarse.

Now for the 'piece de resistance' of the Fig Confiture. ....


ZESTES DE CITRON CONFITS
 
10 LEMONS (to yield 1 ½ cups zest weighing .140 kg [5 oz])
1 ½ CUPS RAW SUGAR

Peel lemons and julienne into ‘needle’ size pieces …tiny width and about ½ inch long. In 2-quart saucepan, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, Blanch, strain and rinse.  Return to pan and just cover with water  (there should be enough so that the zest floats).  Add the juice of 1 ½ lemons and pinch of salt.  Simmer very slowly for 20 minutes.  Water will be almost gone. Add juice from other half of lemon then level with 1 1/2 cups raw sugar.  Cook very SLOWLY for 15-20 minutes.  Add about 2 tablespoons more water if zest is not tender at this time*.  Do this several times…..the color becomes somewhat brownish.  The syrup is obviously thicker and the zest is very transparent and crystalline-like.  It is done when color of zest is correct…..cooked, tender and transparent.

If the lemon peel is tough, it is because it was not cooked enough with the water.

*TIP: If you cook the zest with the sugar too long, the sugar could caramelize, therefore you need to add more water to prevent caramelization.

NOTE:  You can collect your zest over a period of time (freeze it).  As fig season approaches, every time a lemon is used, the zest is removed first, julienned, and put in a small jar in the freezer until there is enough to make the confit.  Did someone say this is labor intensive?  Great for honing your knife skills too.  

I might also call it 'heaven on a spoon'....

For the gardener....

Xavier is very much the gardener and has the patience of a saint (for some things!).  So at the end of last summer, I saw him collecting soil on a plastic bag.  What's up?  He walked over to the tree and wrapped the bag around the limb surrounding a joint with the soil....winter came, spring came, summer came. Then I am in the States for 4 weeks only and he goes to the next step without me.  Cut the branch, removed the plastic....Voila, lots of roots.....potted it for his brother.  And not one damn photo!! I WILL take a picture the next time we go to his brother's!

This just speaks to the fact that fig trees are hardy, fairly easy to propagate. We see so many in the villages growing from tiny cracks in stone walls and fortifications ...seeds left there by a petite oiseaux (bird)....

If you are indeed interested in all the different varieties of figs, check out this website.  It is an excellent source of information about all things fig!

Fig Leaves are very helpful when building a simple food tray
 .



and finally, from Nice Matin, we unravel why there is

No Fig Leaf for Apollo!
 This larger than life statue in Nice has generated much controversy. It was banned in the 70's from its prominent position on Place Massena because some people were offended by his endowment.  In June of this year, it was re-erected on Place Massena sans fig leaf in the location where it was originally intended.




Don't forget to visit Dorette's blog





 



6 comments:

  1. One can never have too many figs. Love the idea of the shallot fig confit with seared duck breasts.

    What a great idea for the lemon zest. It never occurred to me to collect it. Think how many lemons I've thrown away! A fig tree is worth having just for the leaves on the cheese board.
    Sam

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  2. thank you. again and again for posting a delightful description of your figs

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  3. I love that fig jam. I too was loaded with Brown Turkey figs this year. I picked about 60# off one tree. Made jam, dried fig cakes, and plain dried figs.

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  4. Your post inspired me to do a little research on figs. I guess you can grow a few varietals of fig trees up here in New England. One I saw is the Hardy Chicago Fig? Would love to know more and then go plant one in the Meyer's garden! Perfect!

    I LOVE this jam!!

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  5. Funny thing: I was just going to post my story on figs tomorrow morning! So now I have updated it with a link to your post.
    I don't suppose, by any small chance, that you will bring any of these jars back???? (hint, hint!)

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