Mama, you watching?

July 16, 2011

I do love a fig. Several of these little sweehearts went directly in my mouth.

Today, I have done something I haven’t done in 40 years, and something I’ve never done by myself. I made and canned jam.

I am outrageously proud of myself, I am.

Aren’t they pretty? And I checked them and they all sealed, and everything. I’m right proud.

You will remember the figs, from earlier this week. They had reposed in the fridge longer than I had intended for them to repose in the fridge, due to some unexpected crises at Chez Brockwell this week, so I brought ’em out today. Read several fig jam recipes, all of which were similar, calling for figs, sugar and lemon juice. Some called for cloves, cinnamon, allspice. I never saw much that cloves and allspice wouldn’t improve, so I added a bit of each.

I washed and stemmed the figs. Some recipes said chop; some didn’t. I’m always in favor of laborsaving when I get a chance, so I didn’t. My base recipe called for three pounds of figs and 2 cups of sugar, and the zest and juice of one lemon. I had five pounds of figs so I added one more cup of sugar, and my lemon was a healthy-sized lemon, so I went with that. Probably less than a half-teaspoon of allspice, just a little pinch of ground cloves.

I can testify that five pounds is a Dutch oven full of figs.

Simmered that in my big dutch oven for about an hour. I was a little leery of there not being enough liquid, but the figs gave off a good deal of liquid. Part-way through, I took a potato masher to the pot to break up the softening figs.

After the requisite hour, I upped the heat a bit and started to stir, waiting for the jam to thicken. There were still LOTS of big chunks of fig hanging around in there. H’mm. Maybe chopping wouldn’t have been a bad idea. So — out comes the handy immersion blender.

If you do not have one of these, go to WalMart and spend 20 bucks and get one. It’s one of the finest kitchen creations ever made, and I use it on more stuff than I care to think about.

So I blended that stuff, stirred it again to bring up some yet-unpulverized figgy pieces to the top, blended it a couple more times. Et voila! Fig jam.

Lovely, luscious stuff, innit?

Taste-testing caused me to wrinkle my forehead a bit. It was a good bit more lemony than I’d expected, and it didn’t have the depth of flavor that I was hoping for. I added a good sprinkle of salt, stirred that in, and it helped. I may leave out the lemon, or at least cut it way back, in the  next batch, though.

I was using my big shrimp-boiling pot to both sterilize the jars and process them. It lacked about two inches being tall enough for me to cover the jars the way I wanted to, with using the steamer basket inside it. I’ve got to find a round rack to fit it before I do this again. Nevertheless, I filled my sterile jars with the jam, maneuvered a lid from the saucepan where it had boiled and was sitting, covered with hot water, to cover it, screwed down the ring, and there ya go.

And for a few minutes I was back in Mama’s kitchen in Camden, before air conditioning, with the big 50-pound block of ice in the washtub and the fan blowing across it, and she had all four burners of the stove going canning vegetables or making jam or jelly. She’d have a bandanna tied around her head and a few wisps of hair would have escaped, and her face would be red and her hands would be a blur, they were moving so fast from pot to pot, never a wasted motion, a ballet of absolute kitchen grace. And she’d be singing, usually a Gospel hymn, sometimes a Roger Miller tune.

That was a nice place to be. I didn’t really want to leave it and come back here, albeit this isn’t a bad place to be, either.

I also now have about a quart plastic container filled with the stuff. I’m going to try to make the equivalent of a fig newton, with cookie dough. That may happen tomorrow. Tonight, it’s steaks, a sweet potato puree with honey chipotle butter, some grilled squash and a sliced tomato.

Fairly profitable Saturday morning. I can’t help wondering if Mama was peering down and watching. If you and y’mama ‘n ’em get the chance, try making you some fig jam, and watching the years just melt away.

 

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3 Responses to “Mama, you watching?”

  1. Sharon Says:

    I hope you sang a gospel number or two and at least one Roger Miller song.
    I don’t have the courage to take on making jelly; we never had jam – too upity. The process seemed too daunting and was always planned days in advance like a military operation. Truth was, Mama was more comfortable making it when her mama could do it along with her.

  2. kayatthekeyboard Says:

    I did not. I was drinkin’ beer and listening to the baseball game on tv in the other room. 🙂

  3. Cathe Patton Says:

    Ahhh…Kay…Sweet memories of your sweet Mama! 🙂
    And the Jam looks delicious! She was always sooooo proud of you! And you just get more amazing!:-)


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