Posted on 16 August 2017
Anyone who follows us knows that I’m crazy about figs. So it won't surprise you to learn that I'm also crazy about Middle Eastern fig jam.
Lucky for me, my dad's wife Hinid is an excellent cook and she was more than happy to teach me how to make this delicious spread. Even better, my mom has a bountiful fig tree in her backyard; she spent a week picking figs in anticipation of my project.
First we washed and peeled the figs, keeping some of the skin on. We had 8 pounds total.
Then we measured half the weight in sugar and added both to a very large pot set over medium heat.
Once all the sugar melted, we left the figs on medium heat and brought it to a boil. The bubbles were large and airy. We let the figs continue to bubble in order to cook out as much of the water as possible and wait for the mixture to become thick and syrupy.
Meanwhile we toasted sesame seeds. This is about 6 ounces. The smell in the kitchen was ramping up.
After about an hour of cooking, we added some lemon juice.
The fig jam was starting to set; the liquid was congealing on the spoon and the bubbles were small and thick. It was time to add the rest of the ingredients. In went the sesame seeds.
Next it was time to add the mastic. Mastic is resin from a tree that grows in the Middle East. It’s sticky and is used to make gum and to flavor a lot of Middle Eastern desserts. Hinid ground it in a mortar and pestle with some sugar and poured it into the pot. She thinks it was about a teaspoon but, like all natural cooks, she determined the proper amount by feel and smell.
Hinid likes to experiment so she talked me into letting her add powdered anise to the jam. It didn’t take much to convince me though since I love anise. We continued cooking until the fig jam was so thick it barely slid off the spoon.
The recipe yielded 6 large jars.
The flavors of figs, sesame, lemon and anise are heavenly. The sesame seeds add a lovely texture and a hint of smokiness. I will put this on everything crunchy, add it to ice cream, top waffles and pancakes, and mostly eat it straight out of the jar.
I gave a jar to my mom. Her face lit up and she exclaimed that it reminded her of childhood and the jam her mother made. It was such a happy memory for her and really, that’s what food is about.