Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ah, put a fig in it

It seems I have been trying to recreate the challenges of life on the road (or, more accurately, the universe appears to be recreating them for me). In the time since my return, I have had my laptop kidnapped by Best Buy for three weeks (the end result of which was that they replaced my nonworking wireless card with another nonworking wireless card and I finally gave up and ran an ethernet cable from upstairs), Ollie's rear hub self-destructed (though, happily, this was covered by my extended warranty and I picked her up with a brand new rear wheel last Thursday), and because a lack of internet and transportation proved too manageable, my apartment flooded during DC's recent rainstorms. Don't worry, things are dried out now, though the floor is still looking a little scary. Talk about needing a little time in the kitchen for cooking therapy.

Luckily I am in the midst of one of my favorite times of the whole year. Not only is the US Open coming up, but it's fig season. Every summer without fail, beginning in late July, dad starts calling his sister daily, inquiring about the status of the fig tree in her back yard. You see, it's a short season, a mere 3-week window when figs are literally falling off the tree at my Aunt Emily's house, so we don't want to miss it. The harvesting is not for the timid, however, with swarming bees and overripe fruit splattering on all sides as we take turns shimmying up a rickety ladder toward the cluster that I... can... almost... reach.

Look at that, risking life and limb to gather the plump little luscious mouthfuls. Okay, actually my cousin Sonia did most of the precarious ladder balancing. Here she is with dad, proudly displaying our bowl of treasures.

Ohhh, how I love figs. But the challenges don't end with the harvest. These lovely but fragile fruits only last a day or two before spoiling, so you need to eat as many as your little stomach can hold (maybe sliced in half with a sliver of parmesan on top) and figure out what to do with the rest. Everyone has a favorite method. On Saturday, after a trip to my aunt's place and a stop by the local hardware store for canning supplies, dad whipped up a batch of my grandmother's fig jam (his preferred way to extend the fig-enjoyment season). It's a simple but tasty concoction of figs, rose water, filtered water, bruised cardamom pods, and sugar simmered on the stove.

Nice, but I was still sporting a giant bagful of ripe fruit and decided to do a little experimenting myself.... The Sunday preserving extravaganza began with the unpacking of a food dehydrator kindly loaned to me by my friend Diana at Green Meadows Farm. Not bad, eh? If I can manage a second fig harvest this coming weekend, I think I can make enough bags of dried fruit to get me (and a few fig-loving friends and relatives) through the winter.

They do shrink a bit, but still pack quite a tasty punch when dehydrated....

Ah, but my most extravagant attempt was the fig-walnut-honey ice cream -- courtesy of Mike's ice cream churner, and made a little fancier thanks to the bottle of Maker's Mark left by my recent apartment subletter. A good portion of the batch was scarfed by the dinner group at my friend Kelly's earlier tonight, but if you can get your hands on some figs, here's (approximately) how to make your own. It's a mishmash of a couple of basic ice cream recipes plus a number of spontaneous modifications.

"Put a fig in it" ice cream (makes 5-6 cups)

[The night before: put ice cream canister in the freezer. It needs to be really cold.]

Chop 2 generous handfuls of ripe figs and set aside.

Puree a few handfuls of figs in a blender or food processor. You'll need 1-2 cups of liquified figs (depending on how, er, figgy you like it -- I initially used 1 cup and found it to be too subtle).

Warm and then cool to room temperature 1 cup organic whole milk.

Toast a handful of chopped walnuts in the oven or roast in an unoiled pan on the stovetop. Cool.

In a metal bowl, beat 2 pastured chicken eggs, then add in milk. Beat in 3 cups organic whipping cream, 4 TBSP local honey, 1 TBSP vanilla extract, 1-2 TBSP Maker's Mark (whiskey). Place the bowl of ice cream mixture in freezer for 1 hour.

Remove frozen ice cream canister and attach to ice cream churner. Turn on the ice cream churner and slowly pour half of the ice cream mixture in, followed by half of the walnuts and bits of chopped fig. Once it thickens, turn off the machine, scoop out the icecream into storage containers, then rinse and refreeze the canister. Churn the other half of the ice cream mixture, adding nuts and chopped figs. Try drizzling extra fig puree over the top when you serve it. (Actually, I tried it with some of the lavender peach syrup Mike and I made as well, but that's a post for another day....)


  1. Oh, I'd love a fig! PS - Kent and I want you to come to ND, so FYI that the state's local foods marketer position at the ND Ag Dept just opened up! Ok, ND isn't DC, but if you were ever curious about this midwest...

  2. Tennis and figs--I love this time of year, too.


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