Sticky, sweet, and plays well with cheese.
I know what you’re thinking, that could be practically anything. Even if we’re just sticking to what I’m talking about—fruit preserves—that still could be, well, any fruit growing from a tree. Or a bush. Or a vine. A preserve, while it sounds a bit mysterious and tightly sealed, is really quite simple. It’s produce that’s been intensely heated, mixed with a sweetener, and sealed off to last a lifetime. (Or a little less…) Great for winter, and even better it seems, for outlasting a hurricane.
Sandy arrived here yesterday evening in New York, and my family, friends and I have been extremely fortunate. The surreal state of it all, with only the Empire State building awake and shining in the city that never sleeps, the East River rising up and flowing over the FDR on the East Side, trees uprooting and smacking buildings at last getting a chance to protest the build up…it’s all quite odd, a bit terrifying, and in the strangest, darkest sense, a bit breathtaking.
But the day before, Sunday, I had spent making fig preserves. Perhaps now, it will be my little hurricane tradition. Sweet fruit broken down, combined with tart citrus, smooth liquor, and a healthy helping of sugar. Spread that on a cracker during 70 mile per hour gusts and a tide coming in on the avenues, and things will seem a little weird yes, but not completely lost.
Sharp cheese, crisp crackers, and a deep, rich fig spread to last a hurricane. It may not be the most practical of meals, but it’s comforting.
And responsible. See that barometer? Smart fig preserves checking air pressure. Stay safe.
Recipe on the following page.
Makes about 3 cups
20 dried figs
1 cup sugar
2 lemon slices
4 tablespoon Grand Marnier
3-3 ½ cup water
Salt to taste
1. Remove stems and dice figs. Add to a large saucepan with 3 cups water, sugar, and lemon slices. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for and hour and a half, stirring occasionally and adding more water if the pot looks dry.
2. Once preserve has turned a deep purple-amber in color, remove the lemon slices and add the Grand Marnier. Stir, and cook until (most) of the alcohol has boiled off. Simmer until the mixture thickens and resembles a loose jam. Remove from heat and season with salt, just enough to bring out the flavor. Let preserve cool completely.
3. Blend ¾ of preserve in a blender or food processor to make a smoother spread. Seal into jars or plastic containers and refrigerate until use. Makes a great gift, if it doesn’t get eaten first.