Fig Jam with Balsamic Vinegar, Made from Backyard Figs: A Recipe & Gallery

Figs have, without a doubt, been an overriding force for OurLocaltopia this season.  These tender gems have somehow made their way onto our plates and into our kitchens with alarming regularity lately, and none of us…. none of us can ever seem to turn them down.  It started at a little restaurant in Downtown Fullerton, Kentro, who served an amazing flatbread that was dotted with figs, honey, cheese, and arugula.  This was the beginning of our recent figgy association.  However aside from eating figs, teaching about figs, and featuring figs in our ricotta video, they have just seemed to be in sheer abundance this summer.  And for this we are grateful!  Recently, Evelyn brought me exactly two pounds of the most beautiful figs I had ever seen.  Her father (who lives down the road) had grown these figs, and had made them available to us.  These picturesque figs carried subtle fragrance, a deep purple hue, and were amazingly tender and succulent.  Upon cutting open, the fig glistened and (not a joke) seemed to look at you and say “this is how it’s supposed to be.”  And it certainly was.  It’s a funny story to say that, according to Evelyn, these heaven-sent figs are generally devoured by rescued tortoises lurking just underneath the trees branches, likely waiting with baited breath for nectar to fall from the heavens.  If I get to come back in another life… perhaps it shall be as a tortoise in that particular backyard!

The receipt of a gift such as these figs is something I do not take lightly, and I wanted to use them to their full potential and to honor this amazing creation of nature!  So I looked hard and came up with a Thomas Keller recipe for fig and balsamic jam… one which assembles in 20-30 minutes, and lasts for a month in the fridge.  Can you ask for anything more?  Quick, easy, lasting, and above all, in complete celebration of the main ingredient, which of course was picked and delivered at its peak.

I’ve enjoyed fig jam for years, on top of cheeses, as a condiment for paninis filled with prosciutto and arugula, and with ice cream.  Try this great recipe and see what you’d like to pair it with!  The options are very wide and the possibilities endless, so have fun with a quick and rewarding stovetop session in jam-making that will be sure to brighten your day and, even your month.

Have a look at the photo gallery from my jam making (click on the pictures to zoom in and read the captions), and scroll down for the full recipe and a set of tips that will help you with the preparation!

Fig and Balsamic Jam Recipe

Makes: 2 ½ cups

Figs make great jam.  This jam is sweet, bright, and a perfect accompaniment to sweet and savory dishes such as Panini, flatbreads, cheeses, and ice cream.  It keeps in the refrigerator for a good while, and it assembles in about thirty minutes.

2 pounds figs, preferably Black Mission, stems removed and coarsely chopped

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, tied into a sachet

Fresh lemon juice


Combine the figs, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and sachet in a large saucepan and attach a candy thermometer to the pan.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring to break up the larger pieced of fig, keeping a chunky consistency, until the jam reaches 215 degrees to 220 degrees.  Remove from the heat.

Remove the sachet and stir in lemon juice to taste.  Spoon the jam into a canning jar or other storage container, cover, and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for up to one month.

Notes from Jonathan Dye on the fig jam preparation:

  • Don’t wait to have Evelyn’s father donate figs to you, store-bought will do well here too.  Remember though, the best preserves shine because their ingredients are spectacular, so do the best you can.
  • Don’t use premium quality balsamic vinegar.  First, you’ll never get your money back; second, maybe you don’t have money for that!  Third, there will be additional sugars added from the figs and sugar, therefore any balsamic that is too complex will likely be lost here.
  • Make sure to put your peppercorns in a cheesecloth sachet (tied tightly) or in a tea-infuser; chomping down on softened peppercorns amidst your balsamic figs simply isn’t appetizing.
  • Taste your jam before you add lemon, and then after.  This is your jam.  Also, depending on the ripeness of your figs, you may have more or less sugar in the finished product, which will correlate to the amount of acid you will add.  Go with your heart.

Good eating!

– Jonathan Dye

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