I remember my first encounter with figs.  I was eight years old and thriving on “the grilled cheese diet”. My parents had taken my sisters and me out for breakfast at a place that specialized in homemade jams.

Maybe it was the purple (my favorite) color, or perhaps my sisters dared me, but whatever the cause I spread a bit of fig jam on a piece of white toast and chewed.  The first bite was glorious!  Not too sweet, but not too bland.  Figs were immediately added to my limited list of acceptable foods.

Last week at the grocery store I was greeted by carving pumpkins and fresh picked Colorado figs.  Fall is here and it was time to stock up! I quickly picked up my pace and hovered over the figs plotting my next move.  Beneath my nose stood three varieties: Kadota, Mission, and Brown Turkey.

Kadota were the most visually interesting with their un-ripened green skin and vibrant purple inside.  Brown Turkey and Mission both had a blackberry color, each easily identifiable by Brown Turkey’s coppery hue and Mission’s purple tint.   Taste-wise Mission are my favorite, so my basket leaned heavily in their favor.

As soon as I got home it was time to go back to that day in the restaurant when I was eight: fig jam. I coarsely chopped the figs (while sampling) and poured the remaining ingredients into a saucepan.  It seemed like too much sugar to me, but this was Thomas Keller’s recipe – who am I to argue?

While the jam was cooking I noticed it looked a bit, well…chunky. I quickly re-read the recipe and discovered that I had done a bit too much sampling and a bit too little chopping. My figs weren’t small enough. Cooking would soften the figs, but it wouldn’t break down my massive pieces.  In an attempted to fix the consistency, I utilized my potato masher (a favorite Christmas gift from last year).  And to give myself credit, it worked pretty well!

The outcome was fantastic.  The lemon at the end should not be missed. It gives the jam a bright taste and paired with a creamy Brie cheese it is heavenly!

In the end, I rushed back to the grocery store to take home a few more figs for more jam!

Fig and Balsamic Jam adapted from Ad Hoc
Makes about 2 ½ cups

You will need:
~ 2 lbs Black Mission or Kadota figs
~ 1 ½ cups sugar
~ ½ cup balsamic vinegar
~ 1 tsp black peppercorns
~ 1 lemon

First, wash the figs and remove stems.  Then coarsely chop.  Tie peppercorns in a small sachet.

In a medium sized saucepan, add figs, sugar, vinegar, and sachet.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  If you have a candy thermometer, attach it to the side of the saucepan.  I do not, so I used an instant read thermometer and it worked fine.  While mixture is simmering, stir and break up some of the larger fig pieces.  The temperature should reach about 215°F to 220°F.  This took me about 45 minutes.

Remove sachet. Squeeze in lemon juice to taste and transfer jam to individual jars.  Once jars have cooled, store in the fridge for 1 month.  These jam is great on the first day and even better on the second.  Serve with cheese!