I'm back from the first leg of the book tour, and I want to thank everyone who came out to say hello and share your stories of saving the season. I hope your summer preserving is going well.
Good news greeted me when I got back to LA: my friend Amanda hit me up on Instagram (@savingtheseason) to say that her fig tree was ready to pick—and that she was headed out of town. For the past several years, it's been my good luck that fig season coincides with Amanda's vacation season, giving me the chance to pick endless flats of stupendous Black Mission figs from her backyard tree, ABOVE.
Yesterday morning, the Jam Intern and I met early at Amanda's place to pick before the sun burned through the cool morning haze, and you should have seen us: like two squirrels on an oak tree. Over the course of an hour, we picked about 30 pounds of fruit. In trying to decide what sort of jam to make, I thought of a friend of mine in New York who is an all-black kind of guy, if you know what I mean. He works in the art world and publishing sphere, he lives on a plane between New York and Paris and London, and he's basically fabulous. His standard wardrobe is black on black over black. I thought he should have a jam to match, so here you go: Black Mission fig jam with smoked black tea and garam masala, which is a ground Indian spice mix that includes black pepper, black cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and possibly more.
This is a very "savory" jam, meaning that nothing goes better with cheese or proscuitto—or a moody dark wardrobe.
Black Mission Fig Jam with Smoked Black Tea and Garam Masala
Yields about 1 1/2 pints
3 pounds just-ripe figs
2 cups sugar (the richer flavor of organic sugar works well here)
3 tablespoons freshly squeeze lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon plus 1 fat pinch garam masala
1/2 teaspoon looseleaf lapsang souchong tea leaves or Scottish breakfast tea leaves, lightly crushed after measuring (or the contents of one to two teabags)
1) Figs don't need much prep: trim the stem end, quarter them, and then cut the quarters crosswise, see ABOVE.
2) Combine the fruit, sugar, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of garam masala in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine, and set aside to macerate for a few hours or as long as overnight.
3) Turn the fruit-sugar mixture into a preserving pan, and rapidly bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, reduce over high heat until thickened almost to the gel point, about 6 to 8 minutes after the boil. Lower the heat to medium, add the tea leaves and the remaining pinch of garam masala. Continue reducing to the gel point, another two to three minutes, while stirring constantly.
4) Ladle the hot jam into prepared 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Tips: If you don't have garam masala or lapsang souchong tea on hand, you can still make a delicious jam simply by omitting those ingredients from the recipe above. You could also try the same savory flavoring elements with other types of figs (Brown Turkey, etc.) but I can't personally vouch for the results. If you do try it, let me know how it works. You can reach me on Twitter, @savingtheseason.