Thursday 13 March 2014

Sticky vanilla fig jam

I can't believe it's been an entire month since the Luisa plum cake, made in the afternoon to escape the dense heat of the day. I can't fully come to terms with the concept that an entire month has gone by. Time really has flown and with those days of intense heat and tanned toes and red stripes of sunburn on my nose, came a lot of weeding, digging, planting, cleaning and generally doing. I came to Raglan with ideas of doing, packing in as much activity as I possibly could. From the get go, oblivious to the concept of jetlag needing time to wane, I set to work, volunteering my heart out. I had such a limited amount of time here, I thought. I had so many things I wanted to do and people to see and places to go. You see, for the last three and a half years, I've had unfinished business with this little town on the west coast. Tried as I might, a very large part of my heart was stuck here and refused to belong in Ireland. No amount of moving house or changing job or days in the garden were able to distract me and outwit my heart. There was unfinished business to be had, beneath the foothills of the Karioi mountain. She, that wonderous pregnant lady carved into the mountain, had business with me.

They say strong women who don't know their own selves fully, who aren't aware of their own capabilities or strength,  are drawn to Raglan, to wake up and be close to the mountain and her steady, knowing strength.  They say the mountain teaches women to be strong and discard what no longer serves them and give birth to their true selves. The mountain shaped like a pregnant woman, sleeps gracefully, resting with her feet in the sea water, her hair blowing into the hills. She is relaxed and yet her strong jaw line tells of a self awareness and inner strength. She is lying gracefully in the valley because she chooses to, not because she is stuck.

What does all this have to do with vanilla fig jam then? There are many times in my life, especially as I near thirty, that I feel stuck. Arriving in Raglan again and achieving that goal of a return journey, has felt like a release but as my time here nears its end, I can't help but wonder what the next step is and wondering if there will be movement in my future and the inner strength to do that and enjoy the journey. Oddly, for me, making jam, particularly out of fruit that was over ripe, not perfect looking, a bit dishevelled,  gives me great joy and a big kick up the arse in realising again that transformation is beautiful and beautiful creativity never came out of a perfect, ideal situation. Beautiful, creative change comes about through having a loving, honest yet creative perspective on the current situation and making something stunning out of it.

If you had looked at the bag of figs I had to start with, you might have picked out twenty of the best to cut up and look pretty in a cake or on some muesli in the morning and put the rest in the compost. I looked at them and thought, these figs need love and time and the patience to let them transform into something different and useful again. And so the sticky vanilla fig jam was born. Jam making teaches us to be patient, to care for something,  to dedicate ourselves to our craft, be mindful and to savour the results.  I'm going to spend the rest of my time here being patient, savouring the love and care of friends new and old and learn to have patience with myself so that I don't feel stuck but that I am where I am supposed to be right now and always have the choice to change, to transform to the next phase of me.

Make the most of fig season and watch those fruits transform from soft, blushed droplets to sticky, sweet, seeded, caramel goodness.

I ended up with 10 cups of fruit once it was all chopped. To this I added 7 cups of sugar. Most jams are equal parts fruit and sugar but I prefer boiling for longer on less sugar, it makes a better jam and just takes a little longer and a little bit more love. Make the time and reap the rewards.

Makes 6-8 300 gram jars

10 cups finely chopped figs
7 cups raw brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 lemon, juice and zest,
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 half cup water

Wash fruit, cut off tops of figs and chop roughly into small chunks. Place in a heavy based large pot with water, lemon juice and lemon zest. Place a lid on the pot and simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes or until figs have started to soften considerably, especially the skin, but the pieces are still holding their shape. Meanwhile, put a small plate in your freezer (to be used to test your jam set later) Add in sugar, a cup at a time and stir through fruit until dissolved. Then add vanilla and cinnamon. Leave lid off and simmer, stirring every 10 minutes so it doesn't stick or burn.
While your jam is doing its thing, turn on your oven to 100°C. Wash your jars and lids in hot, suddsy water, rinse and place in the oven. These will dry and remove any bacteria that might spoil your jam. Not as tricky to prep jars afterall!

After about 40 minutes of low bubbling, your jam should be ready but this depends on the ripeness of the fruit. Take out your frozen plate and put a spoon of your jam onto it. Let rest for 1 minute then draw a line through it with your finger. If the two sides don't run into each other and the mixture wobbles, it's ready. If not, don't panic, just boil again for another 10 minutes and check the set again.

Once your jam is set, take it off the heat and give it one stir, then let it rest for 5 minutes.  This lets the fruit disperse evenly. Take your jars out of the oven and while they are still hot, fill to the ledge with jam. Seal with the lids. After 30 minutes,  give each lid one more squeeze tight. Leave it for a week if you can, longer still if you have the will power.  I generally don't.  This jam is perfect for brekkie on sourdough but equally is awesome stirred through yoghurt,  topped on ice cream or with creamy blue cheese on toast. Enjoy! Savour that transformation and the glowing jars of goodness you took the time to make.

1 comment:

  1. good work Grace. this is it, be here and enjoy it.