Green Fig Preserve

I’m always really excited when I find a fig tree – like something in me forgets that I live in England now, and I’ve yet to pick a ripe fig from a tree – even here in the very South of England.Fig on Cheese

Fortunately a South African friend of mine invited me round to her house last year, and out of her cupboard she brought a jar of green fig preserve, reminding me how, back home, we used to deal with the figs before the birds could get to them.

Fig PreserveThis is one of many recipes – in reading up on it, I realise that it’s also something the Turkish do, so who knows how it made it’s way into the South African diet – to me it’s definitely a South African staple, so here’s the recipe, should you too have access to a big fig tree that never bears fruit. You’ll never look back.

Fig Boiling

Two things: it’s a bit fiddly to get the figs to the point of ready, but well worth the effort. Also, I don’t tend to add the spices in the boil. I add them to jars when they’re ready to be bottled up – this means I might have a fig and cardamom, a fig and cinnamon or a fig and clove, slightly different flavours, which keeps it fun and exciting.

Sometimes the figs we find are really big – too big to fit into gifting or ‘single portion’ (aka, enough for one meal) jars. If that’s the case, halve or quarter the figs before adding them to the sugar syrup. It doesn’t look as pretty in the jar, but in reality, when you pull them out to eat on your crackers you would  rarely eat a whole one on a single cracker anyway.

Green Fig Preserve
 
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Author:
Recipe type: South African
Cuisine: Preserves
Serves: 1kg
Ingredients
  • 1kg unripe figs
  • 1kg sugar
  • 1.250 ml (also 1.25kg!) water
  • Spices (cloves, cinnamon stick or cardamom all work well)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
Instructions
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil - just enough to cover the figs. Add the figs and boil for ten minutes. Empty out and refill the pot, bringing the figs to boil and boiling for another ten minutes. This is important, as it's what makes them lose the bitter/unripe taste.
  2. Drain and leave to cool.
  3. Once cool enough to touch, squeeze the figs - there may may be some white liquid that drains out. If there's still a lot of white juice, boil again for ten more minutes, then squeeze again. It seems fiddly, but is well worth it!
  4. In a clean pot, bring the 1.250ml water to boil and add sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the squeezed figs. They will resume their original shape during this process, unless of course, you've cut them.
  5. Add the spices of choice* and boil figs in the sugar syrup for about 25 minutes. Add the lemon juice and boil 5 minutes more.
  6. Pour into sterilised jars, making sure the syrup covers the figs. *I tend to leave out the spices in the previous step and add different spices into the jars at this point so that I have different spice varieties. Close while hot to create a vacuum seal.
  7. Keep in a cool dark place, and transfer to the fridge once opened as it's actually best cold, served with goats cheese and parma ham - or just goats cheese if you're veggie.

 

Campfire Cheese with Foraged Herbs

Campfire cheese

It sounds a bit odd – making cheese on the campfire. You probably want to manage your expectations on this one – you’re not making a fine camembert, but it’s still a brilliant activity and a tasty spreading cheese to have on crackers or toast.

Campfire cheese uses a basic chemistry concept: irreversable changes. You can read more about making it into a lesson/life lesson/ conversation here. Continue reading “Campfire Cheese with Foraged Herbs”

Wild Garlic Capers or “Antics”

When it’s warm enough to roll down the windows as I drive around the island and I smell the feint hint of garlic in the air, I know it’s wild garlic season and time for wild garlic capers. We’re pretty lucky to have a huge amount of wild garlic on the Island, so we can take as much as we’re going to need for the year and it won’t have made a jot of difference to what’s available.

wild garlic field

I think everyone who goes wild garlic picking for the first time picks way more than they need – and end up with wild garlic pesto in the freezer for the next six years! Fortunately a seasoned forager learns quickly how much to responsibly forage!

These are dead easy, and it’s quite hard to get it wrong. The most important tips for foraging wild garlic is to check every leaf. Daffodils, bluebells, lords and ladies and stinking iris all tend to grow in the same places as wild garlic, so if you’re just taking hands full, you could end up pretty sick. Please check every leaf. 

For this recipe the best tips are to not use metal implements and to make sure the lid of the jar you use is vinegar-proof (an old pickle jar is ideal). Also, pop some wax paper into the finished liquid to force the floating wild garlic down into the liquid.

Play around with your seasonings. Some recipes call for sugar, I don’t think its necessary. You can use different vinegars, which will, of course, change the flavour slightly. I use white spirit vinegar, pickling vinegar or apple cider vinegar, because I like to use the ‘leftover’ vinegar into a balsamic once all our wild garlic capers are finished.

Wild Garlic Capers

By the way, there’s a difference between three-cornered leek and wild garlic. (Narrower leaves, for a start!) but three-cornered leeks also have flower buds, so they work the same way!

Wild Garlic Capers or "Antics"
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Foraging
Ingredients
  • Wild Garlic Buds
  • Pickling Vinegar to cover
  • Pink Peppercorns
  • Bay Leaf (optional)
Instructions
  1. Sterilise a jar and a vinegar-proof lid to fit your wild garlic buds.
  2. Pack the buds tightly into the jar. Heat the vinegar, peppercorns and bay leaf gently in a pan (don't use aluminium, the vinegar can react to it.
  3. Bring to a gentle simmer for a couple of minutes and then remove from the heat.
  4. Pour the hot, spiced vinegar over the buds to cover them, leaving about a cm space from the top of the jar.
  5. Leave for 5 mins to allow the vinegar to start to penetrate the buds and for the liquid level to settle. Use a non-metal spoon to stir the buds, removing any air bubbles.
  6. I always add some waxed paper to the jar to force the buds, which will initially float, under the liquid.
  7. Close while still warm (so that it seals the jar) and leave for a minimum of two weeks. We've tend to eat the last of the previous year's while the new batch is pickling.
  8. Recommended with brie or blue cheese and crackers.