making jam, jelly and chutney, thanks to an unexpectedly bountiful crop of everything from the garden. Fig jam is easy, but requires watchfulness. My recipe come originally from a book by Anne Penton called Customs and Cookery in the Perigord and Quercy, published in 1973 by David and Charles. The two areas, Perigord and Quercy, are in the south-west of France, and there is a very similar recipe in Pierre Koffman’s book Memories of Gascony , originally published by Octopus in 1990, and I think recently republished.
I’ve adapted Anne Penton’s recipe very slightly. The version I make goes back to pounds and ounces! I have a switch on my scales that makes it easy. You need 4lbs (a scant 2kg) of figs. Wash them, cut off the hard stalk end, and then quarter them or cut them into eighths. The figs in my garden are black genoa, and big, so I cut them in eighths.
Take 3lbs of sugar (roughly 1.4kg) and put in in a preserving pan with 450mls of water. Heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the bubbles on the surface are smaller. (About 10 minutes over medium heat.) Add the figs. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, and after about 20 minutes add the grated rind of a lemon.
Keep cooking, stirring every five minutes or so. After another 15 minutes, add the juice of the lemon. Cook until the jam sets – there will be quite a bit of resistance as you stir. Pot into sterilised jars when hot.
I seal with paraffin wax when the jars are cold. Remember to cook over low to moderate heat, otherwise the jam might burn before it sets. And – this is obvious, but still worth saying – use a wooden spoon that you keep only for jam-making. A wooden spoon that’s been used for meat and vegetables imparts a nasty flavour to the jam.
Serve on bread or toast. Serve with blue cheese or goat’s cheese and a dessert wine.
For travellers: in Bologna, go the to Mercato delle herbe in via Ugo Bassi. Excellent covered market surrounded by casual restaurants and cafes. The restaurant called Polpette e Crescentini is the one I particularly recommend. It’s casual, and attracts everyone. I saw businessmen in suits, men at the end of their working day (the kids were at the bar, being spoilt by the staff), family groups, friends, couples, singles, and a very few tourists. All ages, all budgets. The prosciutto is sliced to order, of course. The pasta is bolognese in style – filled pasta, lots of cheese and butter. Friendly, busy, unpretentious, with a reasonable selection of wine, and fair prices.