Figs, one of the oldest fruits known to man, originated in Asia minor and were brought over to America in 1520.  In its cooked state, they’ve been used as a sweetener, a practice continued to this day in Northern Africa as well as the Middle East.

Figs have two seasons. A short season in early summer and a second, main crop that starts in late summer and runs through fall.  When purchasing, it’s rare to find an unmarred fig.  Look for those with a slight bend at the stem and weariness to the skin.  This indicates better ripeness and flavor.  Avoid those that are split and oozing, are extremely squishy, show signs of mold or those that appear shrunken. They are best stored at room temperature, do not keep long and should be consumed within 2 days.  Refrigerating them will help them keep longer but dulls the flavor.

If you’re looking to delve into the world of figs, you’ll find 3 recipes below to wet your tootsies.  There’s currently a buy one get one special on at Publix.  So, if you have yet to try them,  now is a good time to do so.

  • HONEY’D FIG PRESERVES (via willcookforfriends.com)
    1 lb. black mission figs
    1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
    3 Tbsp honey
    1/4 cup granulated sugar

Gently wash and stem the figs. Cut them in half, or quarters, and add them to a small sauce pan. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine. Let the figs macerate for 10-15 minutes before continuing.
Set the figs over low to medium heat, and let cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has begun to break down. Using a potato masher, or the back o a spoon, smash the figs to desired consistency.
Reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook for another 7-10 minutes, or until the jam has thickened to your liking. To test whether the jam is gelling, keep a spoon in the freezer. Take a small scoop of jam, and let it cool on the spoon. If it’s still too runny, simmer a little longer and test again.
Spoon preserves into freshly sterilized jars, and seal tightly. Process in a canner, or a water bath, and set aside to cool. Properly sealed jars should be stored in a cool dark place for up to several months, and open jars in the fridge for up to a few weeks.

  • FRESH FIGS WITH BLUE CHEESE & HONEY (via userealbutter.com)
    2 dozen fresh figs
    4 oz Gorgonzola dolce blue cheese, room temperature
    a good honey
    candied walnuts (optional)

Top the figs and cut into quarters from the top down to, but not completely through, the base of the fig. Cream or whip the blue cheese (this won’t work with crumbly blue cheese!) and fill a piping bag. Pipe cheese into the center of each fig. Drizzle honey over the figs and serve with candied walnuts (optional). Serves 24. [Actually, you can probably serve more than 24 with 4 ounces of soft blue cheese – it doesn’t take much to fill up the little space in each fig.]

  • FIG MARGARITA
    2 ounces Corazon Reposado tequila
    1 tablespoon fig jam
    1 ounce agave nectar
    1 ounce lime juice
    1 whole fig

Shake all liquid ingredients and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with fig.