Have you ever had those moments in your life when you discover that you have been pronouncing a word incorrectly, for say, forty years? Or you come across a fairly common fruit and have no idea what it is?
Rewind nearly a decade ago. It's Tuscany. A gorgeous villa. Thirteen close friends and family. THE best vacation EVER. Coming from three years in Turkmenistan I'm sure had nothing to do with the "perfect" factor.
Celeste, Luis and I went for a walk one day up into the hill behind the villa. And while we meandered, we came across a fruit tree. Whatever could that be? Celeste, like Eve in the Garden, plucked one as she precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff.
The dark purple, bulbous, perfectly ripe fruits weren't plums. I remember we debated if it was safe to eat. Sweet sap oozed from where the stem had attached the fruit to the tree. We split it open, pondering the insides of this mystery fruit. The intricate nervous system of flesh seemed so foreign, but the taste so familiar.
Finally, one of us shouted, "Ack! It tastes just like a fig newton!!!" We were smart that way.
So, I was 32 before I had my first fresh fig. And that's when my love of all things figgy began. And figs are in season right now. Divine!
I made this microwave spicy fig jam last year in Baku and couldn't wait to make one of the world's most sublime taste sensations again. Especially when you match it with a nutty cheese.
I don't have a microwave, so I adapted the directions for the stove top. And I doubled it, of course.
Start with fresh figs.
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and let them macerate. I doubled the amount of time for this because the sugar crystals here are gargantuan. Almost the size of small sugar cubes. They needed the extra time to start dissolving.
Then I brought the mixture to a boil....for probably about 15 minutes.
In her recipe, Elise refers to two methods to determine the "doneness" of the jam. The plate in the freezer method never really worked for me. By the time I could roll a bit of the jam around with my finger, it was too late. And I only knew that the next day when the jam cooled. Let's just say it was less jammy and more gelatinous.
But this time, it was perfect.
We had a farewell party for our friend Malorie last night and I made five different pizzas. Hands down the best pizza featured this jam! Instead of sauce, I spread the dough with the figgy jam and then layered caramelized onions and blue cheese. Incredible.
Oh, and the word I've been saying incorrectly for forty years? Detritus. I also said the word antiquated incorrectly for a long time. It's always good to be able to laugh at yourself, and cringe.