It’s fig season in the Lowcountry. Depending on the microclimate where you live, you may be awash in these fruits, nature’s bon-bons, or seeing the season on the wane.
A caller asked whether figs can be frozen. I’ve never done it, as we usually consume the precious few we get (the tree has been unhappy since being moved years ago) and of course, figs are a favorite of birds, too.
Anyway, I found some interesting discussions on a Southern Living and GardenWeb forums. Many say they simply toss them into a bag and freeze (can peel and mash them first, if desired) until they have enough to make fig jam or preserves.
Others recommend eating them later in a partially thawed state and still a bit crunchy.
We thought there’s no time like the present for a few fig recipes.
Ocracoke Fig Cake
Makes 12 servings
This recipe is found in “The New Southern Garden Cookbook” by Sheri Castle (University of North Carolina Press, 2011). Here’s what she says about the recipe: “This cake is a signature recipe from Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It’s dark and spicy, like many traditional Southern cakes in areas where there was relatively easy access to spices shipped in from elsewhere. The delicious, thick glaze tastes like homemade candy and keeps the cake moist for days. The cake is leavened with baking soda dissolved in hot water, a technique that predates commercial baking powder.”
For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
11/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon hot water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup fig preserves
1 cup chopped walnuts
For the glaze:
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 10-inch, light metal tube pan, tapping out any excess flour. (A dark metal, nonstick or heavy Bundt pan will make the crust too dark and thick and will alter the baking time.)
Sift together the flour, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl.
Beat the eggs until foamy in a large bowl with an electric mixer. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar, beating until the mixture is thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the oil, beating until well-mixed. Beat in half of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, and then the remaining flour mixture, beating each time only until the batter is smooth.
In a small bowl, stir together the baking soda and water until the soda dissolves. With the mixer set to low speed, beat the soda mixture, vanilla, preserves and walnuts into the batter.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir well with a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Set the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, run a thin knife around the edge of the cake, and then turn in out on the rack to cool to room temperature before glazing.
For the glaze: Stir together the sugar, cornstarch, baking soda, buttermilk, butter and corn syrup in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes, until the glaze is thick and opaque. Remove the glaze from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool to room temperature; it will continue to thicken as it cools.
Drizzle the cooled glaze over the cooled cake.
To serve, cut the cake into wedges and serve with a small scoop of ice cream or sherbet.
Charleston’s own Nathalie Dupree appreciates the deliciousness of figs, particularly those that grow right outside our back doors. She has developed a repertoire of fig recipes over the years, and many are found in her latest cookbook, “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.”
As always, when working with caramel, take care as it can result in painful burns, she warns.
Fig Caramel Mousse Ice Cream
6 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water, divided
2 cups quartered fresh figs
21/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh figs for garnish
Beat the egg yolks with an electric hand mixer until they are thick and pale.
Meanwhile, heat the sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Use a wet brush to sweep down any sugar crystals that collect on the side of the pan. When the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and boil steadily until sugar turns into a golden brown caramel (330-360 degrees).
As the sugar browns, bring remaining 1/2 cup water to a boil separately. Carefully pour the hot water down inside the pan cooking the caramel mixture. The addition of the boiling water may cause the hot syrup to splatter, so keep hand covered with a tea towel or oven mitt. Stir until water is incorporated.
Puree the figs in a blender until smooth. Set aside.
While beating the egg yolks continually, add the caramel syrup in a steady stream. Fold in the figs. Continue to beat until the mixture is light and creamy.
Set this bowl over another bowl filled with ice cubes and continue to beat while the mixture thickens and cools. Set aside.
Whip the cream and the vanilla to soft peaks; save some for decoration. Fold the rest of the whipped cream into the cooled caramel mixture. Spoon into little mousse pots or a freezer-proof serving bowl and freeze at least 21/2 hours before serving. May be wrapped tightly and frozen several weeks ahead.
When ready to serve, leave bowl at room temperature until a knife can be run around the bowl to release the ice cream.
Place a serving dish on top of the bowl and flip the bowl and the ice cream onto the serving dish, remove the bowl. Decorate the top with the reserved whipped cream and a few slices of fresh fruit.
Here is another Nathalie recipe. She says the filling can be made the day before, allowing the flavors to “make friends.”
Also, although leftover phyllo sheets can be frozen for a future use, they frequently languish unattended until useless and wasted.
It is really better to try to use the whole package at one time, making extra empty tarts and freezing them.
Savory Fig Tarts
Makes 24 mini tarts
4 sheets phyllo dough, thawed according to package directions
3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 ounces goat cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons honey, divided
Zest of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
16 brown turkey figs, quartered
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter the cups of a mini muffin pan.
Unfold defrosted phyllo dough and move to a baking pan. Cover with a slightly dampened light cloth or sturdy paper towel. Brush a large baking sheet with butter and lay 1 phyllo sheet on top. Cover remaining stack of phyllo with the damp cloth. Brush phyllo with butter and layer another phyllo sheet on top and press down. Repeat layering and buttering until you have four buttered sheets.
Cut phyllo stack into 24 equal squares by cutting into 4 even vertical strips and then cutting each strip horizontally, resulting into 6 even pieces (approximately 21/4 inches square).
Arrange squares into mini muffin pan and bake until squares are golden brown and crisp, 15 to 17 minutes. Allow to cool. Repeat process with remaining phyllo dough, melting more butter as necessary, and freeze extra cups in a sturdy air tight container. Mix goat cheese, heavy cream and 2 tablespoons honey until smooth and creamy. Stir in lemon zest, rosemary, black pepper and salt to taste.
Bring vinegar and remaining 1 tablespoon honey to a boil in a small saucepan; simmer until reduced and slightly syrupy, 5 to 7 minutes. To assemble tarts, spoon a tablespoon of the goat cheese mixture into cooled tart shell. Top with a piece of fresh fig. Repeat with remaining tart shells. Sprinkle with black pepper. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.
Who’s got the recipe?
A coworker would like to know how to make Southern-style lima beans by themselves, and also in your favorite combinations with other vegetables or meat.
A West Ashley reader is looking for a variety of grilled shrimp dishes.
Reach Features Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886.