Canning is a new passion for me. I’ve had fits and starts about it over the years, lots of failures, lots of time spent making jams or relishes only to forget about them and never use them. But after all that trial and error, I have finally got the knack of it and have had mostly successes, and a great deal of enjoyment from what I have produced. I have even gained the confidence to experiment with my own concoctions, and this is one of my favorites. It’s rich with figs, set off with the warmth of vanilla and a depth from the bourbon.
I like using the slow cooker for making this. It is pretty hands off, and clean-up is relatively easy. This method is also a little forgiving as it will stay at temperature and there doesn’t need to be that frantic rushing to fill the jars at just the right moment. I also use an immersion blender for this, but if you don’t have one, chop the figs smaller and try a potato masher or a really sturdy spoon to mash up the figs. You will get a slightly chunkier product.
I love this jam on an English muffin. And fresh, warm buttermilk biscuits – oh lordy. But this is also a very sophisticated accompaniment to a cheese and charcuterie tray. It makes a great glaze for pork roast, or serve some on the side. And of course, it is gorgeous in my Blue Cheese and Fig Savories. This makes quite a few jars, but it’s worth it since there are so many uses for the jam. And what an elegant gift!
Fig, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Jam
3 ½ pounds brown fresh figs, like Celeste or Brown Turkey
2 ¾ pounds granulated sugar
6 Tablespoon lemon juice
5 Tablespoons bourbon
1 vanilla bean
First, place a small ceramic plate in the freezer. You’ll use this this to test the set of the jam later. Then get your jars clean. You will need nine half-pint mason jars. I clean the jars and the rings in the dishwasher, and leave them in there with the door closed to stay warm. You can’t put the lids in the dishwasher, it will ruin them.
Quarter the figs, cutting any larger ones into eights and place in the crock of a 6 quart slow cooker. Add the sugar, the lemon juice and the bourbon and toss to coat. Cover the slow cooker and cook the figs for 2 hours on high. The figs will become nice and syrupy. Remove the top from the cooker, and using a stick blender, puree the figs until you have a smooth texture with a few small chunks. Split the vanilla bean open and scrape the seeds into the figs, then drop in the bean. Give the mixture a good stir, then continue to cook the jam, uncovered, for 4 -5 more hours, stirring occasionally.
When the jam has cooked down and is thickened, pull that little plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jam onto it. Leave to set for a minute, then tilt the plate. If the jam stays put, or only runs a little bit, it’s ready to go. Also, run a finger through the jam on the plate if the two sides stay separate and don’t run back together, you’re good to go.
While you jam is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going. Here are step-by step instructions for processing jam in a canner. When the jam is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids to your jars to soften the seals and set aside.
When the jam has met the set test, turn off the slow cooker. Remove the vanilla bean. I like to ladle the jam into a large measuring jug for easy pouring. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the jam, leaving a ½ inch head space. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands, then process the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you have a bit of extra jam, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.
The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
Makes 9 (1/2pint) jars