Oh boy do I love figs, always have. Fig Newtons (now called simply Newtons) in my lunch box as a kid was a favorite. I don’t think I encountered a fresh fig until I was in my mid-20’s. But, no surprise, I liked them right away. Figs are native to the Middle East and western Asia and they have been cultivated since ancient times. There is some evidence to suggest that figs were actually being cultivated over 10,000 years ago. Due to figs’ popularity across cultures, they are now widely grown throughout the world.
Although figs come from trees and are commonly referred to as a fruit, they are not. Figs are actually the infructescence of the tree, known as an “accessory fruit“ or “false fruit“–just like apples, strawberries, quinces, pineapples and watermelons. Who knew?!?!
Fresh figs are delicate and highly perishable and therefore do not withstand shipping. This is why one most commonly sees dried figs in areas where they are not grown. Figs are one of the sweetest “fruits” out there and provide an assortment of nutritional and health benefits. They are loaded with calcium, potassium and fiber–and I think fresh ones are particularly tasty, and they are available in abundance in the Fall months.
There are many things one can do with fresh figs other than place them in salads. This is an easy recipe for a quick fig spread that is absolutely delicious, especially when paired with cheese. Fig spread is perfect on its own on a great piece of bread. But it also makes a wonderful addition to any cheese board, if you are entertaining. This recipe is easy make and benefits from being made ahead of time and refrigerated, so it can set. Only a few simple ingredients are required to make this fig spread; I use a bit of vanilla as a flavor enhancer. I also added some lovely ground bourbon vanilla beans (a favorite of mine) to help make the fig flavor pop even more. This is a specialty item but, for the record, I did not pay $22 for it as the link suggests–look around, you hopefully can find it (or something similar) in a gourmet store near you for less. You can also easily omit these beans if you don’t want to try to locate it; just increase the vanilla extract slightly if doing so.
I paired this lovely fig spread with a piece of light toasted multigrain bread and brie, making a great seasonal breakfast.
Fresh Fig Spread
- 20 fresh figs, stem removed, quartered
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground bourbon vanilla beans
- Step 1 In a small saucepan, add the figs, sugar, water, vanilla extract and ground vanilla bean extract. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the water has mostly evaporated.
- Step 2 When stirring, use the wooden spoon to help break up/smash the figs further.
- Step 3 Remove from the heat and let cool. Once again use your wooden spoon to mash-up any remaining pieces of fig.
- Step 4 Place in a glass jar and refrigerate for at least an hour (ideally more). Kept in the refrigerator, jam should last about 5-7 days.