Dill. Sweet. Bread and Butter. Refrigerator. Southerners love them all. From the fanciest market to the most humble filling station, you have to try hard not to find some locally-made delicacy. More often than not, the tart treats will be prominently displayed right by the cash register, not merely assigned to a shelf with the other, common groceries.
Pigs’ feet, okra, watermelon rind, squash, peppers, green beans, and sausages. Little is safe from a hot, vinegar bath. I thought I had seen, and eaten, them all – until last summer.
Faced with an overabundance of figs and bored with the run-of-the-mill preserves and jams, I went looking for something new and different to make. That’s when I stumbled on something I had never heard of, something my canning friends had never heard of, something even my mama had never heard of – pickled figs. How bad could it be? If you can pickle a pig’s foot, why can’t you pickle a fig?
After some experimentation, I wound up with the loveliest jars of pink pickled perfection – spicy with clove and cinnamon, the bite of cider vinegar tamed with sweet syrup – the taste of summer in a jar.
Makes 4 pints. This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.
- 2½ pounds small firm figs of any variety
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 2½ cups sugar
- 8 whole cloves
- 8 whole allspice berries
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
- 4 strips lemon and/or orange zest, each ½ by 2 inches approx.
- Heat a kettle of water
- Rinse the figs thoroughly in water in which some baking soda has been dissolved. Do not trim. Place the figs in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand until the water cools to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
- Combine the vinegar, water, and the sugar in a large saucepan; heat to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
- Meanwhile, boil your canning jars and tops in a large pot. Place sterilized jars on a clean kitchen towel.
- Place two cloves, 2 allspice berries, a piece of cinnamon stick, and a piece lemon and/or orange zest (I like to use one of each) in each jar. Drain the figs and carefully arrange them in jars. Ladle the boiling syrup into the jars. Carefully run a small spatula or knife between the fruit and the jar to allow any bubble to escape. Fill the jars to within ¼ inch of the rim. Wipe the rims with a clean damp towel and seal.
- Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Lift the jars from the bath and let them cool in a dark place. Let the figs stand for at least 1 month so the flavors can develop.