Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fig Preserves: Historic Food Fortnightly, Challenge 8

Fig Preserves

Challenge 8. In a Jam (Or Jelly or Preserve) September 7 - September 20

It’s harvest time in the northern hemisphere, and springtime in the southern hemisphere. Make something either to preserve that produce that you’re harvesting, or replenish your supply after the winter! Fruit and vegetable jams, jellies, and preserves are the focus!

The Recipe
To Preserve Figs
Source:  The Carolina Housewife by Sarah Rutledge.  A facsimile of the 1847 edition, edited by  Anna Wells Rutledge.  University of South Carolina Press, 1979.

Pick your figs when a little more than half ripe; peel them very thin, and to a pound of fruit put three-quarters of a pound of sugar; make a syrup, and put the figs into it, with a good deal of stick cinnamon; let them boil till clear, stirring frequently.

Recipe Transcription


  • 1 Pound of Under-Ripe Figs
  • 1 1/3 Cups Water
  • 1 1/3 Cups Sugar
  • 3-4 Sticks of Cinnamon


  1. Peel the outer tough skin off your unripe figs.  If the skin is soft in spots, leave it on.  Cut the figs in quarters or leave whole.
  2. Make a simple syrup by heating the water and the sugar.  When it boils, drop in the figs and the cinnamon sticks.

Figs Cooking with Cinnamon

Cook on a medium heat, stirring continuously, until the figs glisten and the sugar syrup foams.  Remove from heat (do not overcook or you will wind up with fig candy-which actually is not a bad thing!).  You can remove the cinnamon sticks or keep them in for added flavor.

Cool and place in an airtight container.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  This recipe works well to serve with cheese, over ice cream or as a topping for a pound cake with a dollop of whipped cream.

Date/Year and Region
South Carolina/1847

How Did You Make It?
I followed the recipe exactly as it was written.  Of course, I used a modern electric oven.

Time to Complete
This was quick, less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

Total Cost
About $4 for store-bought figs (you can always rely on a store - even Whole Foods- to have underripe fruit!).

How Successful Was It?
The flavor really good, but a little too sweet for me.  I followed Rutledge’s ratio of sugar to figs, but I think it’s too much sugar. I still prefer fresh, ripe figs to any other preparation.  I confess that I over-cooked them a bit and they started to turn to candy.  Part of the reason for this is that I made a very small batch (1/4 pound of figs) so they cooked more quickly than I expected.

How Accurate is It? 
As usual, apart from modern cooking equipment, pretty accurate.  I wish I had my own fig tree!


  1. It looks delicious! I've never tried preserved figs but I might try it sometime. I find it neat that syrup can go to jelly and then to candy. It's bizarre.

    1. It was really tasty. Much better than a fig newton filing!


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