My mother was a pretty amazing lady. Having grown up during the depression, she told stories of too-small shoes with worn-down soles lined with newspaper or cardboard to keep out the cold. But every time Mama told a tale of want, she always ended with “…but we always had a garden, so we always had food.” We always had a garden when I was growing up, and while I thought planting and harvesting were at least interesting (I preferred climbing the apple trees with the neighbor kids), I despised pulling weeds, which, of course, was my job.
August was a busy month for Mama, as it is for most moms. Not only did she get the kids and her third grade classroom ready for school, she had to bring in the summer vegetables, (canning lots of tomatoes and too many pole beans), transplant starter pots of collards, turnip and mustard greens for the Fall, applesauce from the trees, and if the fig bushes produced, Mama put up many jars of fig preserves, all before school started the last week of August. (She was not a fan of the first day of school happening earlier, and she wouldn’t know what to think of the learning methods in response to Covid.)
Mama loved sharing the greens from her garden and her fig preserves. I was not a big fan of the figs as a child–I envied the bright purple grape jelly other kids had in their sandwiches, but as an adult I appreciate the fig’s natural sweetness and color. My daughters picked figs with their Mema quite a few times when they were little, and helped make the preserves once or twice. I passed on the tradition with a neighbor kid today, showing how to break open the skin and pop out the pink fruit–he and his mom thought it looked like a sea urchin!
I’ll be making another batch of preserves, but we also enjoy them cut and served as you would strawberries (the peel is edible, and I enjoy it, but it’s easy to pull off if you don’t), with Greek Yogurt and a bit of local honey, in salads with a strong cheese like parmesan or feta and a little vinaigrette, or as part of a cheese board. We also enjoy it in clafouti, a very easy, very searchable French dessert–you place the halved or quartered figs just as you would in a peach, plum or cherry clafouti, then cover with the batter and bake.
Mama’s recipe, probably her mother’s, is an old fashioned preserve without pectin, so it is preserved fruit in a thick fruity syrup. Although the lemons provide natural pectin (and a tasty treat!) if you prefer fig jam, add a couple tablespoons of pectin during the boiling stage (not a whole packet). Mom’s recipe didn’t advise, but I sealed my jars for 10 minutes.
About the name…”Flossie” was my dad’s nickname for my mom, mostly used when they were young and “courting,” as it was called then. But when I remember him calling her “Flossie,” it was always a fun-filled time.
5 lbs. figs
2 1/2 lbs. granulated sugar (about 5 cups)
2 lemons, sliced in thin rounds (and quartered if desired)
2 Sticks Cinnamon
Wash the figs, peeling if desired, removing stem end. Cut into quarters or halves as you prefer, dropping them into cold water as you work. Drain off the water. Place figs and lemons into a large saucepan. Add sugar, and let it set overnight. (I use a large bowl, and refrigerate, covered overnight.)
In the morning, add the cinnamon sticks and place the saucepan on low heat, bringing slowly to a boil. Then, simmer 2-3 hours. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal, as for jelly.