Canning 101: Fig Jam
I am happy to report, my first attempt at canning in over 12 years was a success. After about 2 hours of work (which included a whole lot of down time), I ended last Sunday afternoon reveling at the water bath canned jars of fig jam resting on my kitchen table. The jam was so easy to make, I’m definitely planning to make more, fig supply permitting. Here’s how it went down.
First I started with a quart-sized container of figs. I purchased them on Friday and they tasted blah, but by Sunday they were soft and flavorful.
This may seem obvious, but my first bit of advice for anyone making jam or other canned foods is to make sure you have all the ingredients before you begin. I am an idiot for not doing this.
The recipe I was planning to use called for liquid pectin, unfortunately the store only had powered pectin. I didn’t feel confident substituting (not sure you can even do that) so I had to quickly regroup. Luckily, I managed to find a pectin-free recipe. Even better.
Of course the alternate recipe said to soak the figs in boiling water BEFORE chopping, which I failed to do. I pre-chopped the figs before going to the store to get the pectin. Oh well. Though I don’t suggest modifying recipes or skipping steps, I had no choice. I only had enough figs for two jars of jam and I figured I would be eating them pretty quickly anyway, so I didn’t worry about the repercussions of not soaking. I’m assuming soaking is a step to soften the skins, but I could be wrong. Next time, I will follow the recipe to a T.
To store the jam, I purchased a case of these quilted crystal 8-oz jelly jars from Del Ray Variety. (Freezer canning fans will enjoy the fact these are freezer safe as well.)
Then I started the sterilizing process. I put the jars and their lids in my new canning pot, filled with water, and brought the water to a simmer on the stove. I washed the entire case of jars so the extras would be ready for another canning project. As you can probably imagine, with all that water, this step took a while.
While the jars cleansed themselves in the simmering pot, I prepped the jam — 4 cups of chopped figs, 3 cups of sugar and 3/8 cup of water. It didn’t take long for the mixture to thicken and turn a vibrant red color. Then, following the recipe, I added 1/8 cup lemon juice. The one thing I would do differently next time is chop the figs up into smaller pieces. I don’t mind the chunks, but for presentation’s sake they would probably look better in smaller pieces.
For a while, both front burners on the stove were getting a lot of action.
Then, I used my tongs and magnetic lid lifter from my canning kit to transfer the clean jars and lids to a towel on the counter.
This is where I’d like to add that you don’t need a large kitchen to make jam. I have a teeny tiny kitchen with 24 inches of counter top space. For years one of the many reasons I didn’t try canning was because I thought I didn’t have the space to do this. How wrong I was! I cleared the counter off completely and used half for drying the jars and the other half for funneling the hot jam into the jars. You have to funnel one at a time so you don’t need a lot of room.
I left about 1/4 inch of space from the jam to the top of the jar and then wiped off any jam remnants. Of course I tasted it too — delicious and figgy!
Then the rest is simple — put the lids on, secure with the rims, and place the jars back in the hot water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Again, bringing the water to a boil took a long time.
Seconds after I removed the jars from the hot water, I heard the “pip-pop” sound of the lids, letting me know the jars were sealed.
There was a little jam left that didn’t fit into the jars (about 1/2 jar) that I saved to enjoy as my reward for all my work. Fig jam, goat cheese, hot-out-of-oven bread from Del Ray Cafe and a little white wine makes for a tasty afternoon post-canning snack.
The recipe I used comes from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. I only had one quart of figs, so I cut the recipe in half. Here’s the full recipe:
2 quarts chopped figs
6 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
Prepare Figs: Completely cover figs with boiling water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain, stem and chop figs.
Make Jam: Combine figs, sugar and water in a large sauce pot. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly to gelling point. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Add lemon juice and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
Yield: 5 pints
Are you ready to try canning or have you been doing it for years? Any favorite fig jam recipes you’d like to share?