Friday, June 17, 2011

Vanilla-Fig Freezer Jam

Yesterday morning, a woman who attends my church called and said “I hear you’re the lady who knows what to do with fruit.”  She had a large bag of fresh figs that a neighbor had brought to her–the third or fourth such bag he’d passed along–and she was looking for someone to take it off her hands.   All her other friends, she said, were totally figged out.  So she’d called the church office looking for suggestions, and the church secretary directed her to me.

I’m going to be completely honest here and admit that I didn’t even know what a fig looked like until yesterday morning, after I agreed to take the figs and started wondering what to do with them.  Apart from tasting them in their Newton form, I had no experience with figs at all–except for the fact that I was in charge of the FIGs (Freshman Interest Groups) Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia for three years, during which time I came to be known as the FIG Queen.

When I was offered a chance to reinstate my claim to the fig crown–well, you know I had to say yes

Figs, as it turns out, are pretty versatile.  When I asked for ideas on my Facebook page , one friend suggested enjoying them with goat cheese and a drizzle of honey.   We tried that combination with a few of our figs before I started cooking this afternoon, and I have to say it’s pretty tasty.  I had a lot of figs to use up, though.  A lot a lot.  After I set aside about 15 picture-perfect figs for a tart I’ll be making later today, I got busy cutting up the rest for a big batch of freezer jam.

There’s no shortage of recipes for fig jam and fig preserves on the Internet.  Someday, when and if I move to a state where the temperature occasionally dips below 90 degrees, I might try one of the heat-processed versions; for now, though, I decided to stick with freezer jam.  Basically, freezer jam involves cooking cut-up fruit with half as much sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice (the citric acid is what helps your jam thicken to the right consistency), and whatever other flavorings you’d like to add.  I decided to stir in a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste.  Vanilla extract or the “caviar” from inside an actual vanilla bean pod would work just as well.  (If I were working with a vanilla bean, I’d go ahead and add the bean pod while the jam is boiling, too, then remove it before canning.  That would provide a stronger vanilla flavor, and you can never go wrong with that.)

I also added a box of Sure Jell to the jam.  I don’t usually add powdered pectin, but since I’d never worked with figs before and didn’t know how they’d react to cooking, I wanted to make sure my jam-making efforts wouldn’t be in vain.  (When she saw me adding it, The Girl asked what Sure Jell was.  I explained, and then she said “Oh, so it’s Jell-o even you can use.”  Ha.  She’s a comedian, that one.)   I could see the difference the Sure Jell made very quickly, when my jam went from liquid to syrupy to thick and bubbly in no time at all.

I found a package of five 5-oz. plastic Ball freezer jars at the grocery store this morning for $2.88, and those are what I used for portioning out the jam–plus two random jars I had in the cupboard.  I’m not sure the random jars are freezer safe, so they’re in my refrigerator now.

I’ve already found homes for three of the five freezer jars.  Trust me, if you make this, you’ll have no problem at all giving it away.  It’s good enough to eat with a spoon.


Vanilla-Fig Freezer Jam


8 cups fresh figs, quartered
4 cups granulated sugar
Juice of one lemon
1 pkg. Sure Jell
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste


Before you start cooking: Place a small, clean plate in the freezer. You'll need this for checking the consistency of your jam.

Combine the ingredients: Place the figs and sugar in a large, non-reactive saucepan or soup pot. Stir to combine and allow this mixture to sit for about half an hour. When the figs start to release some of their juice, stir in the lemon juice*, Sure Jell, and vanilla.

Cook over low heat. Bring the fig mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and allow it to continue bubbling. (If you like, you can use a potato masher to break the fruit into pieces; the figs will break down a little bit during the cooking process, but you may want the pieces of fruit even smaller.) When the mixture has gone from liquid to syrupy to very thick, test the consistency of your jam by retrieving the cold plate from the freezer and dropping a small amount of jam at the center. Allow the drop to sit for a minute, then tip the plate. If the drop stays put or runs slowly, your jam is done. If it runs to the edge of the plate, let the jam boil for five more minutes. Rinse the plate, return it to the freezer, and keep testing the jam until you have the right consistency.

Allow the mixture to cool. Remove the jam from the heat and allow the mixture to cool almost to room temperature before transferring it to freezer jars. Leave the lids off and wait until the jam has cooled completely before securing the lids and moving the jars to the freezer. Jars headed straight for the refrigerator will be ready to use as soon as the jam has had time to chill completely.

*Don't forget to zest that lemon! You won't need the zest for this recipe, but it's summer--there are no shortage of uses for lemon zest. Just place it in a baggie, stick it in the freezer, and wait until you have occasion to use it. (You can add to the bag anytime you have more lemon zest that isn't being used immediately.)

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13 Responses to “Vanilla-Fig Freezer Jam”

  1. 1

    Johnnie — June 21, 2011 @ 1:17 am

    This sounds yummy. I have never heard of it before, but I love figs,f and anything vanilla. Good to meet you! I am following along now.

  2. 2

    Robin — August 17, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

    THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING JAM!!!!!!!!!! I am honored to have a little less than a jar-full in my refrigerator. I ate some from a spoon and some on toast.

  3. 3

    familyfoodie — August 17, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

    I’m so glad you liked it, Robin!

  4. 4

    Heather — September 8, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

    I have two bags of fresh figs and now I know what I’ll be doing with them! I don’t have vanilla paste – should I use the same amount of vanilla extract, or a different amount? Can’t wait to try this!

    • familyfoodie replied: — September 9th, 2011 @ 8:54 pm

      Yes, vanilla extract and vanilla paste are interchangeable. Let me know how you like it!

  5. 5

    Michelle — September 17, 2011 @ 11:27 am

    Are the figs measured after cutting up, etc? Do you peel them? We get green figs with pink/red insides here. I’m not sure if the skin is edible, we always peel it.

    • familyfoodie replied: — September 17th, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

      I measure the figs after cutting them into quarters, but I don’t peel them (the ones I’ve used are also the green/pink variety). The skin gets very tender during the cooking process.

  6. 6

    Birthday recap & | My Life Well-Lived — June 24, 2012 @ 9:59 pm

    […] weekend was busy, but not overly so.  Yesterday Mark made fig preserves (we have a gigantic, old fig tree/bush/whatever).  Today, I made strawberry preserves, sweet […]

  7. 7

    Kathy K — July 7, 2012 @ 6:38 am

    I made this last night after another bag of mystery figs appeared on my handrail. I love the vanilla- didn’t have the paste (I’m getting some of that!), so
    I scraped an extra-large bean and boiled the pods with it. I used an immersion blender near the end to break up the larger pieces. Delicious- thanks!

  8. 8

    Look, Ma, Fig Jams! « Whisks & Words — August 5, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

    […] fiasco, and I wanted it to be sweet but flavorful (beyond just sweetness). I found a recipe for vanilla-fig freezer jam on The Family Foodie blog, and this was a great base for my recipe, a tweaked version of the […]

  9. 9

    Danielle — September 24, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

    I found you in my search for fig freezer jam. I just jarred my jam and its SO good!!! Thank you for sharing the recipe. I will be posting my experience on my blog in the near future.

  10. 10

    Pattie — June 13, 2013 @ 11:12 am

    Thanks for sharing this recipe, I have a 15 foot tree in my back yard and have been wanting to make jam. Will be trying this once my figs are ripe.

  11. 11

    Dana Staves — June 21, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

    I love, love, love this recipe, and now that fig jams are showing up again, I’m getting busy this weekend to make some of this jam. I wondered, though – have you ever tried using the hot water canning method with this recipe?