I've just made the acquaintance of some people who live not too far away, who have the most magnificent fig tree. The fig tree was, truth be told, the motivation for establishing the relationship. We have three fig trees planted on the property (the husband does not like to do things by halves!), and this year we had our first delicious figs off one of the trees. But only a dozen or so,
which was only enough to whet my appetite for more things figgy. The property with the amazing fig tree had recently been on the market, and when the husband and i biked past a few weeks back we realised the new owners were present. I went in and introduced myself, and asked if they would be interested in a yearly swap of honey for figs. Happily for me, they were indeed interested in such a swap; in fact they didn't seem to appreciate what a bounty of deliciousness they had in their front yard. They did say that they had problems with people coming unannounced onto the property and helping themselves to figs, so i guess that might have dampened any pending enthusiasm for the fig tree. The figs weren't quite ripe when i first visited, but i went back a week ago and exchanged a kilo of honey for 3 kilos of figs - an absolute bargain in my mind! I also gave them a printed version of the recipe below - i think i need to get them truly turned-on to the joys of fig eating, or they might decide the fig tree is more trouble than it is worth and chop it down.
The recipe came from my friend Julia, with whom i spent a year on Raoul Island. She is a fabulous cook, and i collected many excellent recipes off her during our year together. There were two large fig trees on Raoul; the first time i went to Raoul i did not see a single fig - there were a lot of rats on the island that hoovered the figs up before they got anywhere near being edible, but in the two years between my sojourns there a rat eradication was carried out, and during the second year i spent on Raoul the fig trees were laden with fruit. Prior to that i had only ever eaten dried figs, but now i discovered the joys of fresh figs.
Julia made 'Figs 'n' Honey' on a regular basis while figs were in season, and it was totally delicious as an accompaniment to homemade muesli. I've not had an opportunity to make it myself until now, and had to get in touch with Julia and ask for the recipe. Julia has both a fig tree and beehives at her home in Wellington, and may well have created the recipe herself. The recipe calls for a lot of honey - not a problem for me, as i also have my own beehives and an ample supply of honey. However, mindful of the fact that not everyone has their own supply of honey, and honey having become very expensive to buy, I made my first batch of Figs 'n' Honey using about one third the amount of stated honey, and added a little water. That tasted delicious, but as you might expect, using the full amount of honey stated makes an even tastier brew.
I've written the recipe, including Julia's notes, exactly as she gave it to me. Enjoy!
FIGS 'n' HONEY
Recipe from Julia Brooke-White
1 kg fresh figs
1 kg honey
juice of 2 lemons
slivers of lemon peel
Take a kilo of figs, remove the stems and pour over them some boiling water
Leave for a minute or two then drain off the water and cut into pieces. For each kilo of figs add a kilo of honey, slivers of lemon peel and the juice of two lemons.
Put into a pan and cook until the figs become clear and the syrup has thickened. Put into sterilised jars.
Notes: The riper the figs the quicker they cook. I started using this recipe for the hard green figs that remain in a poor summer, with not enough sun or rain to ripen in good time. They take up to six hours to cook and i wouldn't bother now i know how much better are the results with figs i pick just before the birds get into them - by the time they are starting to change colour.