Fig trees have always fascinated me, if only because of the sweet scent of their broad green leaves carried by the wind on sizzling days. When I smell a fig tree, I am immediately transported to a land of summer days by the sea, fauns dancing drunk on limestone cliffs and sea caves hiding mythical creatures. Figs are a sort of a time-traveling fruit direct to us from the Odyssey. Here is a recipe for a Green Fig Preserve, sure to please a variety of tastebuds.
Unripe green figs freshly picked off the tree by my 8-year old
My Father’s Garden in the South of France
In my dad’s garden, there is a big beautiful fig tree and right now it is laden with figs but they are all green – as in unripe green. Tough, not readily edible, not green as opposed to black since they are black figs-to-be. Impatient as ever to do something with this natural bounty, I searched for green fig recipes hoping to score a green fig chutney. A few clicks later, I realized all green fig chutney recipes used the ripe green fig. However, thanks to a Greek recipe called Syko Glyko, I found a way to preserve the figs in a wonderful syrup. My impatience has turned to anticipation since now, I’ll save them to savor over cold wintry days. I also realize the reason why green figs are used in this recipe rather than ripe figs. Green figs retain their shape after an hour of boiling. Ripe figs would turn to mush.
Unripe green figs freshly picked off the tree by my girls
Plucking figs off the tree
Cover with water
Boil figs 4 times
Stuffing figs with almonds
Preserved figs in syrup
Source: The Greek Cookbook – by Tess Mallos
Ingredients for Syko Glyko
- 50 green figs – I sent my 8-year old girl in the tree to pick the biggest ones
- 50 blanched almonds – I only had regular almonds so I boiled them during 5 minutes and my 7-year old girl peeled off the skins in a pinch
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- zested rind from one lemon
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- Wash the figs and trim stems – my 7-year old did that easily with a short knife, ending up with sticky fingers. Place the figs in a large pan and cover with boiling water. Bring to a the boil and boil gently, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Be careful that the figs don’t overboil as the water will project sticky drops all around the stove top. Drain the figs and rinse with hot water. The only drawback of green figs is that they leave a gooey residue all around the pan but it does clear off with a good scouring pad.
- Return the figs to the pan and cover again with boiling water. Repeat boiling and draining process four times in all, about an hour total. The figs will progressively shrink and turn from bright green to yellow green as they soften.
- Drain the figs one last time and spread out on a big cutting board to dry.
- Insert a whole blanched almond into the base of each fig.
- In a clean pan, bring the 3 cups of sugar and 3 cups of water to a boil and add the lemon zest. Let boil for 10 minutes. The syrup will turn a deep yellow color. Add the figs and simmer over moderate heat for 10 minutes, skimming when necessary. Turn off the heat and leave in the pan overnight.
- The following morning, put the figs and syrup into jars. Seal and sterilize by boiling sealed jars 30 minutes in a large ppan of water, then leaving out to cool down. Store in a cool place and wait until winter!
There is an extra step mentioned in GardenGuides.com that I skipped as I tasted the figs and they were good to me. It’s before you put the figs and syrup into jars. If you want to be thorough, you should boil the figs in syrup again until the syrup test. Here’s what it’s like: drip a little syrup onto a cold plate. If the drops do not spread, the syrup is ready. If you have a sugar thermometer, cook to a temperature of 105 C (220 F).
If you have neighbors, friends or relatives with fig trees in cold climates that don’t allow the figs to ripen over the season, this would be a perfect recipe to use those figs. Have fun!
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Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.