I have been less immersed than usual in the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival because I have been cooking at home for friends, and making jam and jelly. The fig tree has been particularly generous this year – a rich crop of purple figs that have to be picked daily. It took only two days to gather enough figs for jam. The recipe I use appears in a number of books about south-western French cooking, slightly modified over the years. Not hard, but time-consuming. The recipes, originally in imperial measurements (shows how long I have had these books), call for 4lbs (just short of 2kg) of ripe figs. Wash them, quarter them, or cut them in eighths, as I have to.
Put 450 mls in a preserving pan with 1.4kg of sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring quite often so the sugar melts into the water. Allow to bubble away until the bubbles become smaller, then add the figs. Cook them over medium heat, stirring quite often, for about an hour. Add the juice of a lemon. Keep cooking until the jam sets.
The old method is still the best: put a small spoonful of the jam on a cold saucer, put it in the freezer for a few minutes, then take out the saucer and run your finger through the jam. If it wrinkles, it’s about right. Make sure you keep stirring the jam as it thickens, because it is prone to burning.
Put into sterilised jars. I seal them with wax when they are cold, but some prefer to pour over some melted paraffin wax when they are still hot. Leave for a couple of months before eating. Great on toast, brilliant with blue cheese, particularly soft blue cheese, or triple cream.