Marietjie’s mum used to say "I love you as much as fig jam" when she liked someone a lot, and she was right: green fig preserve is lovely with wholegrain bread and butter, irresistible on a cheese platter, and goes very well with buttermilk pudding. The whole preserved figs are also delicious on their own, especially when lovingly served up on cake plates with tea or coffee, as they did in the Old Cape.
This is Faldela Williams’ recipe for green fig preserve.
- 2 kg green figs (from the first crop before the end of October - otherwise it is too ripe and become bitter when preserved)
- 2.5 kg sugar
- 2.5 litre water
- 2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) lemon juice
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) ground dried ginger
For the lime solution:
- 5 litres water
- 25 ml (5 teaspoons) slaked lime (calcium hydroxide, which can be found at pharmacies. See notes below.)
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda
- Remove skins from the figs with a fine grater or a serrated knife and cut a cross in stem end of each.
- Make the lime solution and soak figs in it overnight.
- The next day, boil the figs in 3 litres of water for about 20 minutes until they are tender. Small figs will need less boiling, so keep an eye on them. Small figs might be ready within 5 minutes. Drain.
- Bring 2.5 litre water and the sugar, lemon juice and ginger to the boil. Add the figs one by one and boil rapidly until the figs are soft enough to break open but still crisp, and the syrup is thick. This will take 45 to 60 minutes.
- Bottle in hot sterilised jars, and fill the bottles to the brim with the syrup.
If you are unable to find slacked lime, you can use 4 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda for every litre of water. Soak it for 12 to 24 hours. Rinse thoroughly. Soak for another 2 hours in clean water.
Annette Human's recipe
In her Afrikaans book about preserving food, Lekker vir Later, Annette Human describes a somewhat different recipe.
She soak her figs overnight in a mixture of 25 ml (5 teaspoons) salt per 2,5 litre water and rinse it well the next morning.
She then boils up 2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) blue vitriol or copper sulphate in water, add the figs and remove immediately when the water starts boiling again and rinse off well with cold water. This ensures that the figs have a lovely green colour – though we don’t recommend this specific step.
The figs are then boiled again in fresh water but with fig leaves, for about 4 minutes, until the figs are soft.
For the sauce, Annette Human use 7.5 litre water, 3 kg white sugar and 50 ml lemon juice or 10 ml cream of tartar per 2.5 kg figs. The figs are boiled in the syrup for about half an hour and then left in it overnight.
The next morning, the syrup is boiled again, the figs are added again, and when it starts to boil again, bottled in sterilized jars.