Exploring Turkish Cuisine, Food
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Tradition vs Reality: Unripe Fig Jam and Summer Scents

fig jam cheese platter

Summer finally! I’ve started to drink white wine! Especially this kind of job can’t be done without wine, can it? I miss those gypsies (or flower ladies) peeling and selling them in streets of Istanbul. I couldn’t see any peeled ones being sold here. So? I decided to do it with skin on but still had to trim them.

unripe fig

Alas, I immediately regretted my decision as soon as I got on to it. Why? The sap was sticky! Yes, I was wearing gloves but still it was sticking to the gloves and everywhere.

I mainly followed this recipe and this and this (video) when I could easily ring up my recipe source! Basically, you need cleaning out the bitterness, squeezing the little figs and a heck of sugar.

photo by GiveRecipe

I’d seen this jam flashing the vivid green colour and had only tried it once because of the sugar. I am human and I do like desserts – I eat sweets after every meal! – but there’s a level of sweetness I can tolerate. I always ask ‘az serbet(less syrup)‘ when ordering kunefe (Turkish hot cheese dessert).

However, recently I had a nice homemade one at a breakfast a couple months ago and got hooked! So I was planning to make it this summer, but less sweet.

So this was my improvisation of adding a modern kitchen trick to the old tradition: less sugar and lots of lemon seeds. I save posh muslin teabags for occasions like this 🙂 I recycle everything, and I even take the vacuum coffee bag to a roastery for a refill, not to mention plastic bags to markets.

Ok, I didn’t expect my jam to be bright green as in the photo because I didn’t use slaked lime, which goes by the names of calcium hydroxide, lime water, pickling lime, kıraç(Tukish). It’s sometimes used in desserts such as pumpkin and walnut preserves. Sure it’s not dangerous to use it since you rinse it out, but since I was a bit sceptical, I didn’t use it. ‘Traditional’ doesn’t always mean ‘healthy’, right?

BUT…..

fig jam

Not PINK!!! What’s happened???? All I could think of was that the figs were wrong.

I rang up my recipe source, and yes, my gut feeling was right. These figs were a purple type; you were supposed to use a green type. But how would I know which is from a green or purple fig tree? You would assume that the village ladies who sell them surely know the right type, wouldn’t you? Was I cheated? Lucky, I used only half of it (1kg) in case of an unexpected disaster.

rose jam

Anyway, it was done, and I couldn’t change the result but at least I could disguise the mistake as an invention. So I added rose petals that I saved to make rose petal jam. Since it was already pink, I thought I’d make it even pinkier!

Well, there is no difference in taste whether it’s green or pink but I was very disappointed especially after such hard work. I only read about picking male figs not female, but no one had warned about different types of figs. A lesson learned.

unripe fig jam

So Ta-Da! Fig jam and Rose jam in one go by accident, haha! It went well with feta cheese at breakfast. AND It made a nice complement to a cheese platter. By the way, the blue cheese in the second photo below is the one I made two months or so ago and I was finally tasting it. It was delicious!

To add more delight, the Greek semi-sweet Rosé wine made with Moschomavro (black Muscat) evoked the scent of rose even further! It was very aromatic, reminiscent of  Gewurtraminer, mingling with clove and carnation from the Roditis variety.

fig jam cheese platter

So, will I make the fig jam again next year? Oh, well, maybe not! It seems wiser to get it from a relative or friend who makes it well. But if you want to give yourself a challenge, I recommend you try it because it’s rewarding as is everything homemade. At least now I know what it’s like to make that little pretty green preserves.

About the wine and the cheese in the picture is up next…

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