Fig Jam with Vanilla and Black Pepper

Homemade Fig JamJust over a year ago, I met my friend Stacy through her blog, Food Lust People Love. The first post I ever read of hers was about her Gram's fig preserves.

They couldn't have been simpler. Two parts figs, one part sugar. Cook and cook. Be gentle so you don't break up the figs. Can.

Read on, or Jump to recipe

What struck me about that post was two things. Thing one: although a recipe post, it read more as a procedural post. A technique. You want to make fig preserves?

Two parts figs. One part sugar. Cook and cook. Be gentle. Can.

I love that. It releases you from the strictures of a recipe and allows you to make as much or as little preserves as you want. If you have 7 cups of figs, you'll need 3 1/2 cups of sugar. And if you're feeling spunky, there's no reason not to add some vanilla. Or some cinnamon. Or some whatever.

Thing Two: Stacy had the most amazing grandmother. She drove fast and took chances. She was free with her love and with her laughter. And she allowed the grandchildren to be children and run and play and sometimes even throw knives.

It makes me sad that I have to write about Gram in the past tense, but Stacy's grandmother died just a few weeks ago, at the amazing age of ninety-nine. And a half. While I am sad for Stacy and her family, I rejoice for her that she has all those happy memories of her Gram Marguerite. And she has her fig preserves.

I am sure they all shed some tears at the funeral, but I hope that they were shed through smiles and laughter as they all remembered a woman who lived a long and amazing life.

Stacy, I have never forgotten your sweet post about Gram's fig preserves. When my friend Carol brought me a sack of fresh figs from her neighbor's tree last weekend, I immediately turned to that post for inspiration.

Two parts figs. One part sugar. Cook and cook. Be gentle. Can.

Oh, and y'all know I'm hardly gentle, so right away I knew I would flagrantly flout the "be gentle" rule. I could feel Gram shake her head indulgently as she looked over my shoulder, but I figured anyone who'd let the grand kids throw knives in the back yard wasn't going to get too upset over a handful of smushed figs.

Since I wasn't planning on canning them, I didn't have to be quite as concerned about sugar content and acidity as folks who are going to preserve food have to be, so I just kind of eyeballed the amount of sugar. I added a healthy pinch of salt, a bit of lemon juice for balance. And then, I decided to fancy them up a bit, but I wasn't sure how.

Homemade Fig JamIf you have The Flavor Bible, now is the time for you to open it and find out what flavors pair well with figs. I don't own that book (yet), so I just did a quick Google search for "flavors that go with fig." The first result was from a blog called Nouveau Raw and was called Flavor Profiles that Pair Together in Recipes. Promising, no? And, lo and behold, I found the list for figs: almond, black pepper, cinnamon, citrus, hazelnut, pear, vanilla.

I already had some citrus happening, so I chose to add a hit of black pepper and vanilla. Wow. The burbling figs thanked me, and I thanked the folks at Nouveau Raw and Gram thanked me for mixing it up and as we were all standing around, tasting the jam and thanking each other, I decided that some of that jam needed to turn savory.

So I grabbed another small pot and transferred some jam into it. Gram was all "What are you up to now?" and I said, "Just wait. You'll love it!"

Homemade Fig Jam

Sweet on the left, savory on the right. Both lovely with goat cheese.

I diced up a bit of onion and upped the salt a smidge. I could've caramelized the onion first, but it ended up caramelizing nicely in with all the sugar anyway. And just that little bit of onion--maybe a disk the size of a silver dollar and about 1/4" thick--along with the added salt brought an entirely new dimension to the jam. An entirely excellent dimension that wants to be paired with salty meats.

Sweet Fig Jam

Lovely, smooth, jammy goodness, redolent of honey and apples with just a bit of heat on the back end.

Once the two jams seemed sufficiently jammy, I ran the sweet jam through the food mill to remove the skins and some of the seeds. I was left with a rich, dark puree that will be perfect in a tart. The savory jam, I left rustic. figs 011For pizza. This pizza.


5.0 from 1 reviews
Fig Jam: Sweet or Savory
Recipe type: Jam
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This recipe is by no means set in stone. It's a procedure. Bring your own flavors to the party. You'll be glad you did. I will say, though, that vanilla and black pepper make wonderful additions!

If you make this jam to taste, store it in the fridge for up to a month. If you want to can it and keep for months and months, please follow the USDA canning guide to make sure your jam is safe for long-term storage.
What You Need
  • 3 cups figs, washed with stems removed
  • sugar to taste, about 1 to 2 cups depending on how sweet your figs are and how sweet you like your jam
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, [i]or to taste
  • juice of ½ lemon, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla paste, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • several grinds of fresh black pepper (optional but lovely)
Additions for Savory Fig Jam
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt (or more, to taste)
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • a splash or two of vinegar (which I didn't use but would work very well here)
What To Do
  1. Place all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a boil, and then simmer gently for about 45 minutes or so.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Cool and run through a food mill, mash with a masher or leave as is, depending on the final texture you're looking for. You could even have at it with a stick blender if you'd like.

Homemade Fig Jam
I have to tell you guys, this is my first time ever making fig jam, and I am simply amazed at the complexity of flavor that I was able to coax out of just a few simple ingredients. It tastes of apples and honey and summertime, and I cannot wait to make something yummy with the sweet jam. I'll be sure to tell you what I come up with. How would you use it?pizza1

Thanks for spending some time with me. Have a lovely day.





  1. says

    I love it! Figs are starting to come into season here, and I can’t wait to try this. Maybe a good way to inaugurate my new kitchen in September! (Yes, I have to move. AGAIN.)

    • says

      I’m going to have to start calling you Gypsy Camille! This jam is excellent, though, I must say. If you want to can it, you’ll have to follow the rules for sugar and acidity (as Cathy points out), but if you’re going to use it within a few weeks, just go with what tastes good! =)

  2. says

    Really nice flavor combinations! But please be aware that these are not appropriate recipes for processing for shelf stability. Please store these in the refrigerator and eat within a month. Figs do not have enough natural acidity to be safely canned without sufficient sugar and lemon.

  3. says

    Two things I’m sure of, Jenni. Gram would have loved both of these fig jams. She had a great sense of adventure and would have tried anything. And two, she would have loved you. Because you are the best.

    I laughed to think of her watching over your shoulder, as you made these lovely jams. There might well have been some tsk-ing as you added strange things like black pepper. And I hope you heard her calling you by both of your names. (If you do have two names.) Whenever I was in trouble or she was exclaiming my name in surprise, it was always, “Stacy Monica!” never just Stacy.

    Thank you for this wonderful tribute. It pleases me no end to think that Gram’s ripple of good influence continues, far outside our family and into the greater family of everyone who loves cooking and loving and cooking for people we love.

  4. says

    I bought figs specifically to make this jam. I won’t bother canning since we love jam at my house! And by we I mostly mean me.

    I would love to try this in a fig and goat cheese tart. Swirled in a cheesecake would be good too. Spread generously on a piece of fresh baked bread would hit the spot right now too!

    • says

      I like the way you think, Dionne! It all sounds good to me. I’m leaning towards a vanilla pudding layer for a fig jam tart with the rest of mine. But I don’t think there is any wrong way. So good!

  5. says

    Jenni ~ I love your vanilla/pepper twist on fig jam. And your suggestions for making it savory. I stirred a little mustard into my fig preserves last night and put it out with fresh goat cheese and with a bloomy rind cow’s milk cheese from Caromont Farm here in Virginia. I especially like your idea of adding a little onion. My neighbor just gave me a jar of onion relish. I’m thinking that might be nice, too. Glad to have found your blog through Jamie. Cheers, D


Speak Your Mind

Rate this recipe: