Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Georgia Fig Preserves from Brown Turkey Figs

My parents both grew up in the small South Georgia community of Donalsonville in Seminole County. My daddy was a city boy. His mother died very young leaving my grandfather with four children under the age of 5. My daddy always said that it didn't take his father long to decide that he wanted to become a Baptist minister and headed to Seminary School at Mercer in Macon, Georgia. The children went to Donalsonville to live with their grandmother. She had a grocery store, chickens running around the yard, and a big healthy fig tree. They all loved figs, but my daddy feigned an allergy to fig leaves and never had to pick the fruit. When he was a grown man, his aunts and uncles all said that "Brother" as he was known, would get fig poisoning if he touched the fig leaves.
My mother, on the other hand, grew up on a farm about 5 miles out in the country. She had two sisters and no brothers and had to work in the cotton fields like a "hand". Her mother was a very genteel lady and even though she and the girls often picked cotton, they wore large brim straw hats to preserve their peaches 'n cream complexions. It was at her farmhouse table that I learned to love fig preserves.
When, my parents retired and moved home to Georgia, they had the most beautiful fig tree in their yard. The kids always got a kick out of the fact that there was always a rubber snake in the tree to scare off the birds who loved to nibble on the juicy sweet figs. Mother would fix them bowls of fresh figs bathed in cream and sprinkled with sugar for breakfast. That was just the appetizer. The main attraction were her homemade biscuits slathered with butter and gobs of her sweet fig preserves.
Her recipe was from a University of Georgia pamphlet that I still have in my cookbook collection.
The type of figs that my parents and grandparents grew in their back yards and made those delicious preserves with are named Brown Turkey. They are a brownish purple on the outside when ripe and a have a pinkish tinted and juicy center. 

Georgia Fig Preserves

3 quarts figs
3 quarts boiling water
4 cups sugar
1 1/2 quarts water
2 lemons - thinly sliced

Yields about 10 half pint jars

Pour 3 quarts boiling water over the figs. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain and discard liquid. Rinse figs in cold water and drain. Prepare syrup by mixing sugar, 1 1/2 quarts water and lemon. Boil rapidly 10 minutes. Skim syrup; remove and discard lemon slices. Drop figs carefully into the boiling hot syrup, a few at a time, Cook rapidly until figs are transparent. Remove figs and place in a shallow pan. Boil syrup until thick, pour over figs and let stand 6 to 8 hours. 

Sterilize half pint jars and lids. Reheat figs and syrup to boiling. Pour hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two piece metal canning lids, Process in a Boiling Water Canner 10 minutes. 

When pouring hot preserves into hot jars, make sure to wear oven mitts and to use a kitchen funnel, as the hot juice can quickly scald hands. 

This may seem like a lot of trouble, but if you have access to Brown Turkey Figs, the finished delectable preserves will be well worth your time and effort. 

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