TAYLOR COLUMN: Figs can be made into preserves, brandied

Figs fresh off the tree can be made into preserves.

Sometimes it takes awhile, but a recipe usually shows up.

Thanks to a few readers, we have recipes for recent requests that almost faded away.

A couple were in response to Sherry Murdock. She was raised in Charleston and on fig preserves made with cinnamon and whole cloves. Most of the recipes she has come across use lemon ginger or just lemon.

Teri Lynn Herbert of James Island writes, "I've used this recipe often for my figs! I usually do the lighter syrup." The recipe appeared in the 1955 cookbook "The Complete Book of Home Preserving" by Ann Seranne.

3/4 to 1 pound sugar

3 cups water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 stick cinnamon

12 cloves, tied in a cheesecloth or net bag

1 pound cleaned figs

Boiling water as needed

Combine sugar, water, lemon juice, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil.

Add figs, boil rapidly until figs are clear (about 10 minutes if they are ripe), adding 1/2 cup boiling water as needed if syrup gets too thick.

Take figs out of syrup and chop coarsely. Put in sterilized jars, pour boiling syrup over, seal and process the jars in a simmering water bath for 15 minutes.

Marcella Hair of Charleston sent in a recipe from "The Glory of Southern Cooking" by James Villas, which was published in 2007.

"It's not a jam, per se," she noted.

The author wrote, "Southerners love to brandy peaches, pears, strawberries, and Lord knows what other fruits, but never have I been so impressed as I was by the brandied figs that (chef) Louis Osteen serves on slices of corn cake with buttermilk ice cream at his restaurant on Pawleys Island, South Carolina. The most popular fig in the South is the pear-shaped Celeste (or 'sugar fig'), with purple skin and pink flesh, but the more widely available Black Missions and Kadotas work just as well in this recipe."

Villas adds that he doesn't like to can these figs because he thinks they become too soft and mushy with age.

So think of them as sort of a fig version of icebox pickles: meant to be eaten sooner rather than later.

Makes about 3 cups

2 cups water

1 cup brandy

4 cups sugar

1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise

1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick

1 whole clove

1 pound fresh figs

In a large saucepan, combine the water, brandy and sugar and bring to a simmer. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and add both the pod and the seeds to the saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick and clove, stir well, and simmer until the mixture has reduced to a thin syrup, about 45 minutes.

Remove and discard the vanilla pod, cinnamon stick and clove. Add the figs to the syrup, remove the pan from the heat, and let cool to room temperature. Tightly covered, the figs keep about a week in the refrigerator.

I also thought to check the Junior League's venerable "Charleston Receipts" cookbook, and lo and behold:

Yields 3 pints

2 quarts firm figs

4 pounds sugar

1 1/2 cups water

2 lemons, sliced

1 ounce stick cinnamon

24 cloves

Wash fruit carefully in colander. Let sugar and water come to a boil. Add lemons and figs, and spices tied in a bag. Boil slowly until figs are tender and clear, about 1 hour. Lift fruit carefully into sterilized jars and cover with juice. Seal while hot.

-- Mrs. John Welch (Julie Pringle)

Also thanks to Harriet Little of Summerville.

Meanwhile, Susan Vaughan of North Charleston was trying to find a recipe for congealed salad with vegetables that was served at the old Common Ground restaurant in Mount Pleasant.

We could not track the restaurant's version down, but Nancy Metts of Moncks Corner sent a recipe that may fill the bill.

Congealed salads aren't nearly as common as they used to be. They became popular around 1930, according to Jell-O, with almost a third of the salad recipes in the average cookbook gelatin-based.

Now, I can't say I've loved every gelatin salad that I've met. But in all fairness, some were pretty darn good.

From Nancy: "This recipe was given to me by an elderly aunt about 40 years ago. It was once served and enjoyed at one of the 'lunch counters' in Greensboro, N.C."

2 cups finely shredded or chopped cabbage

1 cup finely chopped green peppers

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup finely chopped carrots

1/2 onion, grated

Mayonnaise

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 (3-ounce) packages lemon gelatin

1 1/2 cups hot water

Mix vegetables with enough mayonnaise to make it "sloppy." Add the pecans, salt and sugar. Mix the gelatin with the hot water. Stir well and cool until syrupy. Mix in the other ingredients and refrigerate. After about 30 minutes, remove from the refrigerator and stir well again to distribute the vegetables. Refrigerate again until ready to serve.

Who's got the recipe?

--Nancy Metts also has a request: "I've been looking for this recipe for many years. It's a Lemon Cake, a delicious yellow scratch cake. The icing is made with fresh lemon juice and other ingredients cooked (I believe) in a double boiler. The icing comes out almost like a candy glaze on the cake. My mom made this cake back in the '40s and '50s and it was wonderful."

--Another reader: "We were very sad when Alex's restaurant closed in Mount Pleasant. There was something special about their pancakes and I'd like to see if you can get the recipe for me. There was an older gentleman who made them with just something extra."

--Judy Rowland writes, "I am looking for a recipe for glazed pecans like the ones in the salads at O'Charley's. They are supplied by Tucker Pecan Company but their website does not sell just the pecans. I have tried other glazed pecan recipes that use egg whites and a sugar cinnamon sprinkle but that is not what I'm looking for. I tried my own version with a sugar, honey and water hot syrup and that was closer but they were sticky. Any help would be greatly appreciated."

Looking for a recipe or have one to share? Reach Food Editor Teresa Taylor at food@postandcourier.com, 937-4886, or 134 Columbus St., Charleston, SC 29403-4800.