Ripe Figs in Spiced Red Wine Syrup. That’s how I end most every summer. I couldn’t let summer slip completely out of our grasp this year without a salute to one of my faviorite fruits. Figs, Figues, Feiges.
I live is So. Cal. There are figs everywhere, and they are ripe. The ripiest of ripe. I can’t seem to steal them from neighbors fast enough, so the birds are getting drunk of the fermented flesh of over ripe figs. It’s quite a show.
When I have this many figs I usually poach a whole bunch in an exotically spiced red wine sauce. It’s easy to freeze and it tastes great on vanilla ice cream.
So before the last ripe beauty disappears I want to share what I know about figs. But I warn you, you may learn more information about the fig today than you presume you will ever need! That’s because I think useless information is very useful. It comes in handy at dinner parties, and business lunches. It’s useful on a trip to the grocery store, the dog park, or even the dentists office. Anywhere you have an audience that thinks it might be rude to interrupt you. So take notes.
The fig is an ancient fruit (but you knew that, any decent fig lover worth his weight in jam knows that). The fig is mentioned all over the bible (ditto). It certainly was present in the Garden of Eden (double ditto), as certified by the fact that its leaves have ruined way too many otherwise sexy Renaissance works of art.
But you may not realize that the fig is the tree of choice for most respectable phallic worshipers. Now I have your attention.
It’s true both in ancient times and present day, the branch of a fig tree is the preferred wood for carving ceremonial phalluses. Yes there is such a thing as a ceremonial phallus.
But I so easily stray from the topic. You need information more easily categorized as useless. Let’s see. The fig has distant relations with the mulberry and the breadfruit. Two more diverse fruits I cannot imagine.
Here is an interesting side note. People in other countries have a completely different name for the same exact fruit! France, figue; Germany, feige; Italy fico; Greece, sykon (that’s a good one!); Spain, higo. I don’t make this stuff up!! But I do borrow liberally from Steve Martin. That’s just a good general policy I have.
Also, figs are fat-free, sodium-free and, cholesterol-free. Figs are high in fiber, providing 20% of the recommended daily requirement. Which is more dietary fiber per serving than any other common dried or fresh fruit in the world! Figs have the highest overall mineral content of all common fruits. I could go on and on, but do the research for yourself.
However, all this is just intellectual subterfuge for the real reason I love figs. They taste like heaven. I like them freshly plucked from the tree (L.A. soot and all). I love them cooked to a mushy pulp and spread on toast. I love them in cakes and cookies. Though to be honest I cannot imagine that Figgy Pudding has even one thing in common with figs, so I leave it off my list.
More importantly, figs pair wonderfully and so diversely too. Just try one with a little Gorgonzola. Hardly original, but (I’ll say it again) heavenly. A similar salty sweet dichotomy can be had with prosciutto. You must try figs and yogurt, figs and rosemary (trust me), figs and balsamic reduced to a sauce with foie gras.
Pork chops and applesauce, my arse! You have not lived until you done it with figs? How about sardines–stuffed with breadcrumbs, anchovies, and dried figs plus just enough red pepper to make it sing.
But sometimes simple is best. I think Caymus Vineyards invented Conundrum to appease thirsty fig lovers. I mean it just makes sense.
I’ll leave you with this mental picture. Some say figs taste like strawberries. I say that is an over-simplification. It’s true they’re sweet like strawberries, but they’re oh so earthy too! You can almost imagine Romulus and Remus suckling on the fig-sweet milk of a she wolf beneath a fig tree in what is now commonly known as Rome.
Oh, and one last thing– figs are not just for uppity foodies like me. The Fig Newton has been pleasing the masses for generations. GREG
- 3 c red wine
- 1 c granulated sugar
- 3 whole star anise
- 8 whole black peppercorns
- 5 whole juniper berries
- 12 very ripe purple figs
Add the wine sugar and spices to a medium saucepan set over medium high heat. Once it begins to bubble lower the heat to a simmer and reduce the mixture by half to a syrupy consistency.
In the meantime slit an x into the tops of the smaller figs. You may cut the bigger ones in halves or quarters. You goal is so that they are all about the same bite-sized chunks.
Once the liquid has reduced to your liking remove from heat and add the prepared figs. Let them cool to room temperature in the liquid before before serving. You may also cool them completely and store covered and refrigerated up to 3 days in the refrigerator. In which case let them come to room temperature before serving.