Fig Jam with Fennel Pollen
Abundance is the mother of preservation. My friend Amy found herself in possession of a very large quantity of figs, more than any rational human could possibly manage to consume, so I happily took a few flats off her hands. Fig jam, after all, is my absolute favorite.
Coincidentally, I'd been harvesting fennel pollen from a thicket up the hill from my home. After a couple weeks drying in the basement, I worked the pollen off the fennel heads.
Abundance. A surfeit of figs and a bowlful of freshly harvested fennel pollen. They called to each other, beckoned each other. As my jam bubbled on the stove, possessed by the power of the pollen, I tossed some in. Just like that.
The flavor of the fennel bloomed in the jam, enhancing the natural floral and honeyed notes of the figs, but left a haunting licorice note at the back of the palate. We enjoyed some that night on crostini with homemade yogurt cheese alongside a simple salad, and I am eager to use it as a condiment with pork loin. But this jam begs for cheese, playing as well with a tart fresh chêvre, a sharp cheddar, a mild gorgonzola dolce or, best of all, salty, hard cheese like Grana Padano (or my personal favorite, Achadinha Capricious).
If you don't have fennel pollen, fennel seed can be substituted, though the flavor will be milder.
Combine the figs and sugar in a large nonreactive pot and leave to macerate for at least 30 minutes. Longer is better, as the sugar breaks down the fruit; I left mine macerating in the fridge overnight. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to avoid burning. Mash the fruit with a wooden spoon occasionally. Cook an hour or until thickened and the flesh of the fruit is translucent. Add the fennel pollen and stir to combine thoroughly. If you're canning, ladel the jam into sterilized jars, adding 1 Tbsp of bottled lemon juice per pint, and process by normal water bath method. Otherwise, refrigerate and use within a month.
Read More: Sean discovers an award-winning pickled fig (and scores the recipe) for the SF Weekly.
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, DPaul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.