This three ingredient fig jam is designed for canning and uses just fresh figs, sugar, and lemon juice. It’s bright, flavorful, and so easy to make. If you find yourself awash in figs every year, keep this recipe handy!
Hello friends! I realize that it has been an absolute age (more than a year!) since I’ve posted anything new here. I have desperately missed sharing my canning practice with all of you, and while I can’t promise anything like my old regularity, I very much want to show up here more often. So let’s dig back in.
I’m kicking my triumphant return off with a recipe for the simplest, easiest three ingredient fig jam. I make this every year thanks to a dear friend who has a massive fig tree in her backyard. Every summer, I eagerly await the moment when she announces that the figs are ready. This season, she gave me more than ten pounds of fresh figs, plus a well-packed gallon bag of frozen figs for later.
I spend a couple days gorging myself on them fresh before I get down to the business of making jam. Once I’m ready to commit them to the canning pot, I portion them out into batches of approximately four pounds. The figs get washed, I trim away any woody stems, and then I cut them into quarters.
The quartered figs get placed in a large container, and then I add two pounds of sugar. If you are starting with a quantity other than four pounds of figs, just make sure to weigh your figs at the start. Then take that weight, divide it in half, and use that amount of sugar.
If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can also calculate this 2:1 ratio by volume. Just make sure to pack the chopped figs tightly into a measuring cup and then use half the volume of sugar.
Once the figs are quartered and the proper amount of sugar has been added, give the fruit a good stir to fully combine the sugar. Don’t be tentative, really work the figs and sugar together. We are going to give the figs additional bashing up during the cooking process, so you don’t need to worry about the fruit. Vigorous stirring is helpful here.
I like to let the figs and sugar macerate together in the fridge overnight, but this isn’t required. You can start cooking the jam as soon as the sugar is dissolved into the fruit.
When you are ready to cook, scrape the fruit and sugar mixture into a large, non-reactive pot. I like a low walled stainless steel soup pot, but enameled cast iron is also a really good option. Remember to stay away from reactive metals like aluminum and bare cast iron when making jam, as they can impart a metallic flavor into your jam.
At this point, you will also add your third and final ingredient. Lemon juice! Figs are relatively low in acid and home canned foods need to have a certain concentration of acid in order to be safe for boiling water bath canning. (You can read more about acid levels in home canning here.)
Typically, bottled lemon juice is used when we are using it to adjust the acidity of a product for safety. However, in the case of fig jam, I find that I prefer the flavor of fresh lemon juice. To account for any variation in the acid content of the fresh lemons, I use double the amount of lemon juice that is indicated by the National Center for Home Food Preservation in a similar recipe.
I use two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice per pound of figs and find that it gives the jam a really bright flavor without overriding the inherent figginess of the fruit.
Once all the ingredients are in the pan, we cook. Turn the heat up to high, get the fruit boiling, and then adjust the heat so that you maintain an active but controlled boil. Stay near the pot and stir every 2-3 minutes so that it doesn’t start sticking to the bottom of the pan. Because we don’t use any added pectin in this preserve, we depend on evaporation and the changing consistency of the sugar to achieve set. This means that you can’t be tentative with the boil.
The time you spend cooking will depend on the width of your pot, the heat of your stove, and how much water the figs contained at the start of cooking. I find that a batch typically takes 25-30 minutes of cooking once it has reached a boil, but it will vary. You will know that it is done when it starts feeling thicker as you stir. The color will go red and rosy. The pieces of fig will start to look a bit translucent. And the overall look will be very glossy.
When the jam is nearly done cooking, I like to run my spatula through the jam and hold it up over the pot. I watch the droplets as they fall and look for thick based, slow moving drops that stretch and are reluctant to leave the spatula. I find that when they meet that criteria, the jam is done.
Now, while the jam is cooking, I prepare a boiling water bath canner and select enough jars to hold about four pints of jam. A mix of pints, half pints, and quarter pints is fine. The processing time for all of those jars is the same. Please do remember that yields vary and you won’t hit this exact yield every time you make this jam. Sometimes you might get an extra quarter or half pint. Sometimes it will only yield three pints. This is the nature of jam and it’s best to adjust your expectations early.
Once the jam is finished cooking, funnel it into the prepared jars, leaving about 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims of any sticky drips with a damp paper towel, and apply new lids and clean rings. Tighten the rings just until you feel them grip the jar. If you overtighten the rings, you run the risk of preventing the air from escaping during processing and the lids may buckle as a result.
Process the jars in a boiling water bath canner for ten minutes (making sure to adjust for your altitude if you live above 1,000 feet in elevation). When the time is up, turn off the heat, remove the lid and let the jars sit in the cooling water for an additional five minutes. This adding cooling step is something Ball started recommending a handful of years ago to help prevent siphoning and improve the quality of the seal and it is a very effective trick.
Once the jars are done with their resting period, remove them from a canner and set them on a wooden cutting board or folded kitchen towel to cool completely. When jars are cool to the touch, check the seals. Sealed jars are shelf stable for at least a year and should be stored in a cool, dark place. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.
Three Ingredient Fig Jam for Canning
- 4 pounds fresh figs
- 2 pounds granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- Wash the figs. Cut away the woody stems and quarter them.
- Place the prepped figs in a large container and add the sugar. Stir to combine. Let the figs and sugar macerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. If opting for a longer rest period, place the container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- When you are ready to cook the jam, scrape the figs and sugar intoSp a low, wide, non-reactive pan. Add the lemon juice and stir to combine.
- Place the pan on the stove and set the burner to high. Bring the figs to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium high. You want to keep the figs cooking at a controlled boil. Stir every 2-3 minutes to prevent sticking.
- While the fig jam cooks, prepare a boiling water bath canner and enough jars to hold approximately 4 pints of product. A combination of pints, half pints, and quarter pints is fine. Wash new lids and rings in good condition in hot, soapy water. Set aside to dry.
- The cooking time will vary for this jam, but I start looking for signs of set after it has boiled for 15 minutes, though it may need up to 30 minutes of cooking. You will know that it is done when it starts feeling thicker as you stir. The color will go red and rosy. The pieces of fig will start to look a bit translucent. And the overall look will be very glossy. I also like to hold my stirring spatula up over the pot and watch how the droplets cascade off of it. Drops of jam that are thick based and slow moving indicate jam that is reaching set.
- When you have determined that your jam is finished cooking, remove the pot from the heat. Funnel the finished jam into the prepared jars, leaving approximately 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean of any drips, and apply the lids and rings.
- Process the jars in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes (starting timer once the water has returned to a boil and not before). When processing time is up, turn off the heat, remove the lid and let the jars cool in the water for five minutes.
- When that time is up, remove jars and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. When the jars have cooled enough that you can comfortably 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.