Figs are flavorful, sweet treat

June 8, 2011 

Figs have a lot going for them. They're low in protein and fat but high in carbohydrates and fiber.

Whenever I pick figs to make preserves, I also end up eating enough to make a meal. I can't help it -- it's fun to pick from the tree. Sometimes fighting with the bees makes it difficult, but when the task is over, I know it was worth it.

Figs, fresh or dried, are a high-carbohydrate food and an extraordinarily good source of dietary fiber, natural sugars, iron, calcium and potassium.

When shopping for figs, look for the plump, soft ones. The skin can be green, brown or purple, depending on the variety. Harvest time for figs can begin during late June or early July.

There is something special about having figs in some form throughout the year. Make preserves during harvest time, and enjoy the flavor of this terrific fruit all year on anything from breads to cakes.

Fig Preserves

Makes: 4-5 pints

4 quarts fresh figs with stems

1 tablespoon baking soda

3 quarts boiling water

8 cups sugar

1 quart water

1 lemon, thinly sliced

Place figs in a large bowl, sprinkle with baking soda. Add 3 quarts boiling water, and soak 1 hour. Drain figs, rinse thoroughly in cold water. Combine sugar and 1 quart water in a large Dutch oven, bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes. Add figs and lemon to syrup, cook until figs are clear and tender, about one hour, stirring often.

Spoon figs into hot sterilized jars. Continue cooking syrup until thick. Pour syrup over figs, leaving 1/8-inch head space. Top with lids and screw metal bands tight. Process in boiling water bath.

Fig Preserve Cake

FOR THE GLAZE:

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 cup butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

FOR THE CAKE:

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup fig preserves, chopped

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Buttermilk Glaze

For the glaze, combine first 5 ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and remove from heat. Cool slightly and stir in vanilla. Set aside.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add oil, beating well. Add eggs and beat well; add buttermilk and vanilla, mixing thoroughly. Stir in preserves and pecans. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan; bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes; remove from pan. Pour warm buttermilk glaze over warm cake.

Port Royal resident Ervena Faulkner is a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at features@beaufortgazette.com.

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