August 20, 2014 10:49:54 AM
Anne Freeze -
Figs seem to have such a short season here. Between the birds and the hot weather, their time in our area is fleeting. When I see them at the Hitching Lot Farmers' Market, as I did last week, I snatch them up and figure out what to do with them later.
Once again, I am back in time to growing up in Athens, Georgia. We had a huge fig tree (bush?) and Momma would lovingly and tenderly pick them early in the morning, hoping to avoid those dang wasps. I remember eating them raw, but can't remember how. I picture a bowl of cream and figs and I can see her making her fig conserve.
A few days ago I had a hankering for that fig and pecan conserve of hers and so searched online for a recipe. I also remembered at the last minute to look in my notebook of saved recipes and I found her recipe. It is not quite as vague as some, but definitely not as concise as the one I found online. I took a little from each one and the result was delicious. The jars are ready in my pantry for the day I learn how to bake bread! Hopefully in the next six months I'll be cheerfully buttering a thick slice of warm homemade bread and topping it with a dollop of fig and pecan conserve.
What is a conserve, you ask? I never gave it much thought until I sat down to write this column. So, I found my $1.99 1991 copy of Rodale Press' "Making Old-Fashioned Jellies, Jams, Preserves, Conserves, Marmalades, Butters, Honeys & Leathers." I'm thinking that the wordy title may have kept it off of the best-seller list.
According to them, a conserve is " ... a rich mixture of different fruits, often combined with nuts or raisins. Marvelous with bland foods such as rice or hot cereal. Conserves are made basically like preserves."
Below is my mother's recipe, "Anna's Fig Conserve." I am assuming it came from our neighbor, Anna Fickett. If it is confusing, just go with it; I can't provide any additional directions. However, as it is very close to the online version, you can do as I did and take a little bit from each.
ANNA'S FIG CONSERVE
2 pounds figs
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
(Note: Laura Ann noted that she added a lemon and some crystallized ginger. I also added the ginger in mine.)
FRESH FIG AND PECAN CONSERVE
2 1/2 pounds fresh figs
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
(Note: When I combined the recipes I used much less sugar, went lighter on the lemon juice and used orange zest. I lightly toasted the pecans before using.)