Sour Fig Jam
Sour figs are the claw-like fruits of an invasive, non-native species widely known as ice plant. A garden escapee, it is native to South Africa, where the fruits are used to make all kinds of preserves. This Cape Malay recipe for jam has an excellent and unusual flavour, with notes of warm spice coming from the rooibos tea and cinnamon.
Harvest your sour figs when they feel soft when squeezed – pick them as late in the season as you dare, before they turn brown and shrivelled. When green they’re very astringent, but as they ripen (some varieties will flush pink or turn a yellowy orange) they become less so. The greener they are, the more initial cooking they’ll require to soften them – but they will give the jam a pleasing tartness. You’ll need to pick about 800g of the fruit to give you 500g once trimmed.
- About 800g sour figs (the fruit of any of the Carpobrutus species found in the UK)
- 125ml rooibos (red bush) tea
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 500g jam sugar
- Top and tail the sour figs so that just the seed capsule remains, and cut into roughly 1cm pieces.
- Put the rooibos tea into a heavy-based pan and add the fruit. Set the pan over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer then put on the lid and cook until the fruit is tender to the point of a knife – this will depend on how ripe your fruit is. Very ripe sour figs may not need much time at all (if any) to soften, but if they’re quite green and crisp it could take up to 15 minutes. Stir frequently, and add a little hot water to the pan if it looks like it might be on the verge of boiling dry (though this is unlikely as the fruit will exude some juices as it cooks).
- While you’re waiting for the fruit to soften, put a heatproof saucer into the freezer to chill.
- When the sour figs are tender, add the cinnamon and sugar to the pan and stir well over a low heat until the sugar is melted into the liquid. Bring up to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. To test for a ‘set’, take the pan off the heat and remove the chilled saucer from the freezer. Drop about a teaspoonful of the jam onto the saucer. After a few seconds, drag your finger through the puddle – if its surface wrinkles and does not run back into the pathway made by your finger, the jam is ready. If it is still runny, return the pan to the heat and saucer to the freezer and test again in three minutes.
- When the jam is ready, leave it to cool for 10 minutes (this will ensure the fruit doesn’t all float to the top in jar as it sets) and pour into sterilised jars. Fasten on the lids and leave to cool.
Recipe by Wild Food UK, photos by Otherwise