October seems to be the perfect month for me to make jam. Last year I filled some mini jars with bramble jam – mini purely because of the blackberry curse that haunts me – and although that is literally when the tradition started, I would like to it continue. This year it’s time to celebrate the beautiful produce of France with fig and thyme jam. Two years in a row, and who knows what’s in store for next October (I’ve spotted gorgeous plums in shades of red, yellow and green, a traffic light collection if you will, at my local supermarket, but I’ll probably jam them before the end of the month to be honest. The Jam Monster inside me can never say no).
It was a delightful twist of fate which led me to these figs, and purely because I went in the wrong direction twice. You would have thought map reading was easier since the invention of Google Maps but alas, it’s not. I emerged from this tangle of sunny streets to the main road where a fruit and veg market was in full swing. My food adventuress conquered my internal lazy teenager, so I meandered past the stalls until I spotted the figs. Plump and purple, they were enormous, exactly what I hoped to see in the south of France. I swiped three punnets of these bad boys for only 5 euros, and will be back for that nice old fig seller to take more of my money.
Back home and finally fed because, yes the teenager won there, I proceeded to make jam. Once upon a time, jam-making was a daunting task for me and I approached the pile of fruit like it was a literal mountain I had to climb. Now though, after troubling myself about pectin, writing a jam-making guide, and eating hundreds of different varieties, I practically swaggered into the kitchen.
First, I snipped off the woody fig tip, which kind of reminds me of a nipple, then quartered them all, some oozing pink seeds across the chopping board. In a pan, I mixed the fig quarters with sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice and a teaspoon of dried thyme, then let them relax into a sticky figgy syrup.
Later, I returned to put the pan on medium heat which dissolved the sugar, then whacked it up to high so it bubbled, boiled and frothed like an angry volcano. Soon enough, I had a thick syrupy jam full of softened chunks of fig, just begging me to dip a finger in, but no ouch too hot.
The thyme offers a gentle savoury note to the jam’s sticky sweetness, harmonising the flavours delicately, although don’t go overboard otherwise it will taste like a Christmas dinner. Honestly, this fig and thyme jam is a masterstroke and I’ve nearly finished the jar as I tend to add a daily dollop of it to my morning porridge, and also in some fine cheese scones, working like a caramelised onion chutney to complement the salty cheese.
Maybe every month should be October so then I can spend all my time making jam.
How to make jam
Now, a potential reason why we are daunted by making jam is because it seems so precise and strict, almost Victorian and made in the grand kitchens of Downton Abbey. This is definitely not the case – double check the jam-making guide if you’re not sure.
When it comes to the fruit to sugar ratio I tend to go for 3:2; my sugar weighs two-thirds of my fruit. This ensures there is enough to set the jam, but not too much for it to become almost saccharine in flavour.
Meanwhile, the amount of thyme is also relative to the quantity of fruit. Once my figs were prepped they weighed approximately 400g so I added a teaspoon of dried thyme (which is more potent than fresh).
So, don’t be overwhelmed by weights and measures. Use as many figs as you can find and follow the 3:2 ratio.
Fig and Thyme Jam
- 1 jam jar sterilised in boiling water
- 400 g figs washed, quartered, woody tips removed
- 265 g granulated sugar
- 1 tsp dried thyme or fresh if you can get hold of it
- Half a lemon
- Tip your prepared figs into a large saucepan, add the sugar, thyme and lemon juice and stir everything together to combine. Leave to sit at room temperature for at least an hour to soften the fruit. When you return the fruit will be suspended in a beauitful dusky pink syrup.
- Place the pan on medium heat and bring to the boil as you stir. Once you can feel all the sugar has dissolved into a syrup, increase the heat to high. Place a saucer in the freezer (no, I've not gone crazy, this is a legit instruction)
- Keep stirring as the jam boils – there may be foam on the surface so just scrape that off into a handy bowl with a spoon.
- Once the jam starts feel thicker and the bubbles are volcanic – bigger and slower – the jam is nearly ready. Take your freezer saucer and top it with a spoonful of jam. Let it sit for a minute then gently push your finger against it to see if it wrinkles, and run your finger through it – if the two sides flow together it needs a bit longer. If they stay separate, it is ready.
- Take the jam off the heat and leave it for a couple of minutes so it can settle.
- Sterilise your clean jam jars for 10 minutes in a big pan of boiling water. Once ready, let them airdry on a towel.
- Fill the jars with jam, screw on the lid tightly then either store or eat some.