Thank you, author John Boyne for giving the term “flying fig” – and the lack of concern it measures – some historical context. A few years ago, Boyne included the phrase in a novel about the famous mutiny on the British ship, the Bounty, which occurred back in the late 1700s. I can now tell myself the phrase is historically accurate and not just a euphemism for another phrase that is far less polite.
What does any of that have to do with real figs? Why nothing, of course. But I did have a bounty of them drop into my lap this week.
Despite my canning ambiguity this year, I had been mulling over if there was any way I could snag some fresh figs locally (they’re a rare bird around here) and by chance overheard a friend talking about a tree loaded with figs, ripe for the plucking. As luck would have it, the tree’s owner doesn’t give a fig about getting out in this heat and picking them, so my friend/source is welcome to them. And I’m welcome to what he picks as long as I give him back some preserves, including a jar or two as recompense to the tree’s owner. It’s a sweet deal for everyone.
Yesterday morning I started with this – about 3 quarts of figs, washed and stemmed.
|It’s a miracle there were any left after I started nibbling on them.
After a few hours of cooking down (meanwhile I scrubbed and sanitized a dozen jars) and a few minutes of filling, sealing and a quick dip in a hot water bath, I wound up with this pretty array of jars, plus one in the fridge because I misjudged the number of jars needed:
|Fig preserves; they’re like sunshine in a jar.
But the nice neat stack of jars comes at a price. This is the kitchen after the preserves finished their water bath. Canning is not difficult, but it does take time and it is messy. Very, very messy.
|How many kettles does it take to can? All of them.
Is it worth it? Oh yes. I’m not much of a jam/jelly/preserve fan, but I am looking forward to using these preserves in some upcoming cakes and cookies. And I’m hopeful I might get another batch or two of figs. Maybe in a year or two my fig tree will reward me with some figs. Assuming it survives transplant shock, poor baby.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged cleaning, grapes, Monday musings, preserves, vacations on Tuesday, August 17, 2010 |
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When I dashed out the door Friday afternoon to scoop up a car load of girls and haul them to the mountains, the house wasn’t in shambles, but it wasn’t really clean, either. Laundry was done, but not put away. Bed was made, but I didn’t have time to change the sheets. Dishes were done, but left to dry next to the sink. You get the picture.
Our return was heralded with suitcases full of dirty laundry, shopping bags of new acquisitions, and quite a few leftover groceries, which I frugally refused to throw away when we packed up our belongings yesterday. The house-sitting son worked most of the weekend (that’s his excuse and he’s sticking to it), so tidying up behind us or himself was not high on his list of to-do’s either.
So here I am with a clean desk: a peaceful island in a churning sea of wreckage. (Kind of makes me just want to hang out at the desk all day, but I guess that’s not really an option.)
How do I clean a ravaged house?
Conventional wisdom says, “dig in and clean.” Phooey on that. I figure I should first make a BIGGER mess, THEN I can really clean up. (Otherwise, I would be cleaning up, only to mess it up again. Two birds, one stone, all that.) So instead of launching an assault on the mess, I grabbed some buckets, headed outside and picked grapes. I should have picked them last week, but I knew there was no way I could squeeze juice- and jelly- making into that schedule, so I took my chances the birds and insects would leave a few for me and indeed they did. I enjoyed our “cold snap” (those weather forecasters have a zany sense of humor) and sweated and swatted long enough to pick about ten pounds of grapes. They’re smaller than last year, probably due to the dry weather while they were ripening.
As expected, the grape juicing process made a mess – bright purple splotches and stains on the counters and several sticky pans and a Foley food mill to wash up. Much better to do this all at once, eh?
Good news: the kitchen is now much more respectable. Now on to tackle the laundry and get fresh linens on the bed before bedtime!
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