Fig season is short, although it does come twice a year, so be sure to preserve figs while you can. Figs can be canned, frozen, pickled, dehydrated and even fermented!
Fig season is season is something to celebrate. Like mulberries, figs don’t ship well which makes it hard to find fresh figs for sale. In fact, most figs will start to ferment within a day or two of picking.
However, all you need it access to one fig tree to have all the figs you need for the year. There are many way of preserving figs so choose the ones that will benefit your family the most.
There are lots of ways to can figs and, honestly, some people have very strong opinions about what constitutes “proper” preserved figs. My belief is that if you’ve preserved figs in any way, you have preserved figs. So, don’t get too caught up in what other people call “preserved figs”, just preserve your figs so you can use them all year long.
Technically, Preserved Figs are whole figs canned in a heavy syrup, usually with a little lemon added. Sometimes these are called southern preserved figs.
But you can add spices – warming spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger make a tasty addition. You can even make bourbon preserved figs.
There’s not enough liquid in figs to juice them for jelly, but they do make a lovely jam. To make fig jam you’ll mash the figs, add sugar and lemon, and cook. Depending on how many figs you have you can can the jam or refrigerate it. Here’s step by step instructions for canning fig jam.
If you want a more chunky jam, try making a fig conserve which uses chopped figs, nuts, and spices.
Yes, pickled figs are a thing….a very good thing, in fact. They do take a little longer than many of the other ways to preserve figs. Pickling figs is a two day process.
On the first day, you’ll pick, wash, and boil the figs in a vinegar brine with spices. Then it goes into the refrigerator overnight.
The second day, you’ll remove the fig mixture from the refrigerator and remove the spice bag. The figs will need to be reheated before filling the jars.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a good recipe to try.
Figs can be frozen with or without the peel. They can be frozen dry or in syrup. Ascorbic acid or lemon juice can be added to the syrup to help the figs retain their color. Use 3/4 tsp ascorbic acid or 1/2 cup lemon juice per quart of water or syrup.
Freezing figs is my favorite way to preserve them. Our figs are ripe at the height of our gardening season and, honestly, other things take priority over them. By freezing them I make sure that none of them get wasted.
But it’s super easy to just cut the stem off the fig, toss it into a freezer bag and put it in the freezer. If I decide to can or dehydrate them later, I still can.
When everyone is done eating figs for the day, I freeze every single fig. I don’t leave any for the next day because they ferment so fast. Plus there will be more on the tree the next day for fresh eating.
We mainly use frozen figs for smoothies and “mock” ice cream. Figs don’t have a strong flavor so we add a few to every smoothie as a free filler. Even those who don’t care for figs add them to their smoothies, because you can’t taste them.
Mock ice cream is really just frozen figs and bananas blended with just a little bit of milk until smooth. You can add berries for berry ice cream. Or add chocolate simple syrup for a chocolate ice cream. It’s like a soft serve ice cream….and delicious.
There are other ways to freeze figs. For instance you can cut them in half and freeze them on a cookie sheet. Once they’re frozen transfer them to a freezer safe container (here are some tips for freezing in glass containers.) These would be good for baking.
To preserve the color you can toss the figs in a a mixture of 3/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid and 3 tablespoons water. This should be enough to cover a quart of figs.
If you don’t want to can fig preserves, you can freeze them. Just pack the figs and syrup into a freezer safe container.
You can do the same thing with fig jam, here’s an easy slow cooker recipe that wouldn’t take much hands-on time.
Figs should be ripe before dehydrating as under ripe figs tend to get sour once they’re dried.
Small figs can be left whole but will need to have their skins “checked” so they dehydrate faster. Here’s how to check fig skins.
- Bring a stockpot of water to a boil.
- Fill a bowl with ice water for an ice bath.
- Dip whole figs into boiling water for 30 seconds.
- Remove the figs from the boiling water and immediately put them in the ice bath.
- Once the figs have cooled enough to handle, drain the water.
- Pat the figs dry with a clean kitchen towel before dehydrating.
Large figs should be cut in half – but their skins don’t need to be checked. I find it easier to just cut all figs in half for dehydrating.
Figs can also be added to other fruit to make fruit leather.
I’ve mentioned several times that figs will ferment very easily so they need to be preserved quickly. That’s unintentional fermenting.
When you intentionally ferment figs and other foods you create an environment in which good bacteria can grow and bad bacteria cannot grow. It’s also called lacto-fermentation and is completely safe.
However, if you enjoy wine, you can try your hand at making fig wine which will keep well.
Growing Your Own Figs
Figs are very easy to grow and can even be grown in containers. You can learn all about growing figs here.