Every year, around this time of year, there are figs and apples out of control. We talk about preserving, and how you just have so much of everything. It sometimes feels like a mountain that you can’t climb.
So this year we decide to just make enough, not to harvest and preserve every last bit. Just make enough.
And the experience feels nice. We have enough to give and enough to keep.
This will be our last batch of jam from this farm, as we move on. Many people have asked where we are going next, and what we are doing. And at last we are excited to tell you. We are travelling for a little while longer, in May we are off to Italy for 2 ½ months, where we hope to eat all of the food and see lots of Mediterranean growing/produce! And then, when we get back to Australia, we will start a new little farm on the other side of Victoria, where we will make our new home. It will be a smaller space, a humbler space, but we hope even more bountiful. We are super excited for all of the experiences ahead, to learn more, to grow more (no pun intended) and live more.
And it feels fitting to make one last jam here, a recipe we have made in this house so many times - adapted time and time again (you can find the original/base recipe and preserving instructions in our book).
We played around with it a bit this year, specifically for figs – and this is our best fig-jam combination yet. We also altered the cooking times a little, as it seems figs just get better with time – a longer, slower cook, makes it “jammier” and more flavoursome. The key is the orange, as we aren’t into the super/hyper sweetness of the figs and it just adds a little bit of bitterness that balances the whole thing out. And the spices add warmth.
For Easter, we will be having this on toast (or maybe on hot cross buns) with a cup of tea – we like to keep it simple. We know this post isn’t all chocolate Easter eggs and hot cross buns, but for us, this is what this time of year is all about – harvesting and preserving. Happy Easter.
On preserving fruit with minimal sugar
The more modern way (post industrialisation) to make jams is to use so much sugar that it would never go bad on the shelf. We see it a little differently. We see jams as a great way to preserve fruit for just one year, until the next season. The total sugar content for one-year preservation needs to be 25 per cent (conservatively speaking – in reality our jams have lasted much longer than this on the shelf even with only 25% sugar content!). We assume an average of 10 per cent natural sugar for all fruits, so we need to add another 15 per cent sugar to make our jam preserve for that one year, which is about one-sixth of the total weight of the fruit. That is how this recipe is designed, and you can use it for any sweet fruit.
For even more tips on preserving (including bottling whole fruit), preservation theory, bottling methods, using honey instead of sugar, and how to create an even longer shelf-life, check out the book.
Makes approx. 3.5 L // Time approx. 8-12 hours
1 very large or 2 regular oranges
6 kg figs, halved or quartered
6 cinnamon sticks
8 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger
1 kg lemons, juiced, keep the skins and pips (you need at least 2 heaped teaspoons of pips, more is even better, for the jam to set – it’s a great idea to collect these over time whenever you use lemons)
1 kg unrefined sugar (like rapadura, panela)
Place a small plate in the freezer.
Remove flesh from oranges and set aside, cut the orange skin into super thin strips (as thin as you can) that are around 2-3 cm long.
Place all of the ingredients (including orange flesh and skins) except the sugar in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for approx. 8 hours, or so until the mixture begins to thicken and look super “jammy”.
Add the sugar to the pan and continue to reduce on a simmer for approximately 1 hour – don’t let it boil, as it will become toffee-like if it becomes too hot. It should be super thick. Once you are happy with the thickness, pull out the whole lemon skins and the cinnamon sticks if you can find them. Place a very small drop of the jam onto the cold plate. It should stiffen and set like jam. If it doesn’t, add more lemon pips and continue to simmer with the lid on for another 30 minutes or so, before checking the thickness again.
When your jam is ready, follow the ‘hot jar, hot liquid, hot lid method’ on page 215 of the book. (In short, for those that don’t have it, place jars and lids in a saucepan of water and boil, remove a few at a time, fill with piping hot jam, and secure the hot lids, repeating until there’s no jam left! Don’t forget to sterilise all your implements – spoons etc – too in the boiling water).
Store on the shelf in a cool, dark place. Your jam will keep for at least a year on the shelf. Once opened, store in the fridge.
Note – When we say whole lemon skins it literally means the whole thing, not peeled or grated, just whatever is left after juicing them.