This fig mostarda is a delicious and unconventional way to preserve this season’s crop of fresh figs!
Sometime in the middle of July, I got an email from the folks at California Figs. They were writing to see if they could send me some fresh figs from the new crop that was just coming into the market. There were no strings attached to the offer and no blog posts were required, they just wanted to send some figs*. As it happens, one of my guiding principles in life is to simply smile and say “thank you, yes please,” any time someone wants to give me fresh figs.
A box from California Figs arrived two weeks ago and contained a bounty of figs. Four flats, each containing a different variety (Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Sierra, and Tiger figs, for those of you who are curious). It took me a week to work my way through them, but through steady preserving (and a good bit of snacking), I turned those four flats into five different preserves.
I’m going to dole these recipes out over the next couple weeks (I’ve been doing a LOT of preserving lately, so it’s going to be mostly recipes around these parts for the next month or so). The first recipe I have to share is this one for Fig Mostarda. Mostarda is a traditional Italian preserve, typically made by candying fruit in a simple syrup that’s been spiked with potent mustard oil.
We can’t get concentrated mustard oil in the US (it’s the primary ingredient in mustard gas and so it a controlled substance) and so the preserves that I call mostarda are more like chunky jams, made pungent with a liberal application of mustard seeds, a touch of cayenne pepper to tickle your nose, and cider vinegar to lend a certain tanginess.
Mostardas as I make them are really great condiments to eat with cheese (I have a feeling that this one would pair really nicely with a crumbly cheddar) or dolloped alongside a platter of cold grilled vegetables (I am imagining it with charred onions and summer squash). Oh, or what about spooning it into a freshly baked gougere that’s just been torn in half? Heaven!
The recipe starts with two and a half pounds of figs, which isn’t an impossible amount to obtain (in the past, I’ve kept my eyes peeled for figs at Trader Joe’s. They’re often affordable enough that I can buy a few pounds without too much pain). I used black mission figs, but if you have access to a fig tree, use those. The color will be different, but the flavor will still be good.
One more thing about figs. It’s always important to use recipes that have added acid, as their pH is typically a bit too high for safe canning. I used a goodly amount of vinegar to ensure that this mostarda is safe, but if you’re winging your fig jam, make sure to acidify them like tomatoes and use 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice for every pint of product that you’re canning up.
- 2 1/2 pounds fresh figs
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Wash and trim the stems if they've gotten hard. Quarter the figs and set them in a low, wide, non-reactive pan.
- Add the sugar to the figs and stir to combine. Let the figs and sugar macerate for several hours, until there is a goodly amount of liquid in the pan.
- When you're ready to cook, prepare a boiling water bath canner and five half pint jars.
- Add the apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds, salt, and cayenne to the pan and stir to combine.
- Set the pan over high heat and bring the fruit to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit softens and the liquid thickens. Towards the end, you will need to stir even more.
- Once you're happy with the consistency of the mostarda (it should be softer than a jam), remove the pan from the heat.
- Funnel the mostarda into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.
- When the time is up, remove the jars and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. When the jars have cooled enough that you can comfortable handle them, check the seals. Sealed jars can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.
*I think they knew that I wouldn’t be able to resist writing about what I made.