Fig Preserves with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper

Argh! “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men”. It’s happened again. I have a schedule for these posts. I really do. Today’s entry, for example, was to have been an instructional post detailing how to make Italian mozzarella. The Fates, however, intervened. In the days preceding my trip to Michigan, I failed twice to make the cheese.  I thought I’d be able to try again once I returned home but soon there were peppers to pickle, figs to preserve, olives to cure, and a seemingly endless stream of posts to read and comments to write. So — and by stating my plans I’m taking a big risk with those pesky Fates —  I decided to schedule Italian mozzarella for October 10th.

Now, pushing mozzarella off into the future left me in a bind.  I had no post for today. Earlier I mentioned I had figs to preserve. Well, that recipe suddenly became today’s post, meaning I had some writing to do. As you can see, I got it done but, as for the backlog of posts & comments, I’m still working on them. Sorry for the delay.

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A few weeks ago, chaiselongue1 posted Jamming, an entry about making fig jam. (If you’re not familiar with this beautiful blog, olivesandartichokes, now is as good a time as any to check it out.) I thought that jam sounded delicious but that’s about as far as it went — until a market last week had crates of Mission figs for half the price I’d previously seen. Next thing you know, I’ve got 2 crates (about 3 lbs) of figs in my cart. Once I got home, I checked the Jamming post again, as well as the Pick Your Own website, as I always do before I preserve anything. Once there, a sentence caught my eye. “If you like strawberry jam, you’ll love fig jam.” That got me to thinking. I went back to the recipe I’d shared for strawberry jam with balsamic vinegar (thanks, Sarah!) and decided to use it as a guide for these preserves.

Unlike the strawberry recipe – but like Jamming — this recipe doesn’t use pectin. It takes a bit longer to prepare but if you take your time, the preserves will set as nicely as if you used pectin. Just like the strawberry jam, however, I included cracked black pepper. I really enjoyed the “bite” it brought to the strawberries. Lastly, these figs were sweet enough, allowing me to use less sugar than was used with the strawberries. Besides, I’ve got plans for these preserves that don’t involve toast. Stay tuned …

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Fig Preserves with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper Recipe 

yield: 5 – 6 cups


  • 4 – 5 cups fresh Mission figs, prepped & chopped (about 3 lbs.)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp butter (optional)
  • pinch of salt
  • ⅔ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp cracked black pepper


To Prepare

  1. Sterilize the jars and wash the jar lids and rings in hot, soapy water. Place lids and rings in a deep bowl and pour near-boiling water over them.
  2. Start bringing to boil a large, deep canning kettle of water to be used for the canning process and a second, smaller pot of water to be used to replenish water that may boil away during the canning process.
  3. Trim stem and bottom of each fig before chopping. When finished, use a potato masher to smash them.

To Make the Jam

  1. Place a small plate in the freezer. Place the figs, sugar, and water into a sauce pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, add the salt, optional butter, and stir occasionally until a rolling boil is achieved. (A rolling boil is one that cannot be stirred away. Using a candy thermometer, that’s about 220˚F (104˚ C).)
  2. Once a rolling boil has been achieved, place a small amount of the fig mixture on the now frozen plate. Once the cooked figs have returned to room temperature, check to see if it is jam-like. If too runny, continue cooking for 10 minutes and test again. When the right consistency is achieved, remove from heat and continue to the next step.
  3. With a large spoon, carefully skim the surface to remove any foam.
  4. Add the balsamic, black pepper, and  lemon juice. Stir well to thoroughly combine.

To Preserve

  1. Using a funnel and large ladle, fill each jar to ¼ inch from the rim. Wipe the rim to make sure no jam has spilt, place a lid on each jar, and then the ring, tightening until “finger tight” but not as tight as you can make it. Act quickly, filling and capping all the jars.
  2. Jars placed directly on the kettle’s bottom might burst, so, a rack of some sort must be put into the canning kettle to cover the bottom. Many large pots have one, as do many pressure cookers.
  3. Keep each jar level as you place them, one by one, into the canning kettle filled with now boiling water. The jars should not touch each other, nor should they be allowed to tip over. Depending upon the size of the kettle and number of jars, you may need to work in batches.
  4. Once the jars are in the kettle, make sure that there is at least one inch of water over the top of the tallest jar(s). If not, add boiling water from the smaller pot mentioned in Step 2 of  To Prepare.
  5. Cover the pot and begin timing when the water returns to the boil. The jars must be boiled, “processed”, for 5 to 10 minutes, depending upon the size of jar used.
  6. Meanwhile, place a baking sheet on a level surface and line it with a clean kitchen towel.
  7. Once the time has passed, carefully remove each jar and place it on to the towel-lined baking sheet. Leave about an inch separating the jars.
  8. Once all the jars have been processed and placed on the baking sheet, remove the baking sheet & jars to a place that is draft-free and where they will remain undisturbed for 24 hours.
  9. After 24 hours have passed, check each jar to insure it’s sealed and then store on a shelf in a cool, dark place, where it will stay fresh for months.

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Once opened, the preserves should be refrigerated and fully used within a month.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Pancetta-Topped Roast Loin of Pork with Fig Preserves

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

It’s that time of year again. Concord grape time, that is. In our farmers markets, groceries, and vegetable/fruit stands, the grapes are on full display. Although a sure sign of Summer’s end, they do mean that it’s time to start making some jelly — and I’ve got a few pounds of the blue beauties just waiting to be transformed.  I’ll be following a recipe that I used last year. If you’re interested in doing the same or just want to check it out, you can do so by clicking HERE.

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