Summer is winding down, and for most families the school year is about to begin. In my home our school year has already begun, we’re well into our first quarter’s worth of home school work. We’ve mostly worked out our kinks and the road ahead is somewhat clear. It would seem that mother nature is right there with us readying herself for the new year ahead, the weather is cooling down and boy am I thrilled! Autumn is without a doubt my favorite time of the year. The tree’s are beginning to show off beautiful hues of orange, yellow and red, and they are almost ready to purge themselves of their leaves. The animals everywhere, preparing for the cold and me? I am damn happy to not have to deal with hot weather, mosquito’s and best of all? No more bathing suits. This fat girl is pleased to stash away the Gramma one pieces and my moo moo’s. (Not to mention the case of sun screen we have to baste ourselves in before roasting in the sun) Give me my boots, hoodies and jeans, I’ll shovel happily. Summer? It has its nice points but I’m ready for it to be over.
In the Northeast especially the changing of the seasons is nothing short of an ethereal, beautiful experience. For as long as I can remember Autumn has always been a magical time of year for me. It might help that I’m a Halloween baby, it might also be that both of my children as well as my husband have birthdays near mine. Besides just the revival of the sweat pants, this time of year also brings back the holiday season. Just a little bit longer, my tree will be up and I will have menu idea’s on post-it notes everywhere. Musky aromas, harvest, and Spice! I love the powerful, spicy and peppery flavors of fall. Cloves, cinnamon, ginger and molasses. These flavors are all absolutely present in my home year round however, this time of year they are quintessential, and representative of whats great about this season. Fresh cider, pumpkin pie, and of course gingersnaps.
Going through my cupboards I came across a big sack of dried fruit, mostly figs with some cranberries and prunes. Would-a, could-a, should-a used them for something or another but instead they’ve just been there in limbo for who knows how long. I decided they needed to go. I decided a jam for the holiday season might be nice. This jam is a wonderful spicy, sweet, and sour flavor party. I paired them with the gingersnaps I hold so dear. Its the same cookie recipe I’ve used for years with 3/4 cup of wheat flour substituted. (I absolutely could not tell the difference at all, next time I may attempt reducing the butter and subbing out even more wheat.) The jam, well it really is the unique part of this equation. Your thinking vinegar and pepper jam with cookies? Really? Yes, Absolutely! Its a combination of the unique earthy sweet taste of figs combined with molasses, ginger, balsamic vinegar and my super ingredient: pink peppercorn. Exotic, divine and worth seeking out.
You can substitute about 2-4 pounds of fresh figs if you have them on hand. They’re not currently in season, and I’m not sure I’ve even seen a fresh fig before anyway. I happened to have an abundance of dried fruit I needed to use. I used mostly figs with a little bit of dried cranberries and prunes. This is a sticky and delicious recipe that is so easy it can even be made in the microwave.
Yields Approximately 3 to 4, 8 ounce jars
- 18 ounces (4-5 cups) dried figs
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups sugar (see note*)
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 -2 teaspoons crushed pink peppercorns, more for garnish
In a large pot ( or 3-4 qt pan) Combine sugar, water and dried fruit. Bring to a boil and simmer 10-15 minutes. Allow to rest 30 minutes. Stir in vinegar and process in a blender or food processor until mostly smooth, you can add water or vinegar to thin it as desired. (if you have one of those stick blenders you can use it directly in the pan. It will prevent some sticky clean up.) Add salt and pink pepper corns, bring to a boil. Add more pepper if desired.
-Place into sterile jars and process in a canner or boiling water bath for 8-10 minutes, according to jar size and your altitude. I made three 8 ounce jars, and a few 4 ounce jars.
Note: I used 2 cups of sugar. In combination with the dried fruit it made it a very spreadable and sweet jam however it was somewhat thick so I thinned it out with extra balsamic vinegar. For less sweet jam use 1 1/2 cups.