Today’s inspiration is Mona. She’s been my dog since I was nine. Although she might be the most difficult animal to care for in the whole world, she’s my favorite one. She’s ornery, mean, mostly deaf and blind, and she has to go outside at least 6 times a day. She takes Prozac. In her younger years, she ran away from home more times than I can count, she once swam across the Intercoastal Waterway and lived off of what she could forage for a week, and she survived both a coyote attack and an accidental baseball bat to the head. I have no idea why she ever made it to old age, it seems impossibly unlikely. But, here we are, almost fourteen years later, and she’s still the most adorable little creature I’ve ever laid eyes on. She’s intelligent, fiercely loyal, snuggly, and as hard-headed as ever. And I love her.
Mona came to visit with my mom yesterday. She napped while we made fig preserves. Just looking up from a steaming pot while my mom chopped figs beside me to see Mona in her little bed made me smile. The way she curls up to nap makes me feel warm and happy from a place I can’t really identify. It’s somewhere between the pit of my stomach and the catch in the back of my throat that makes me feel a little like crying. When we had a moment’s lull, I would walk over and wake Mona up to be met with this happy face. The way she looks at me reminds me how completely and unconditionally she loves me, and that makes me feel like being a better person. Is that just crazy dog person talk? It probably is. But you dog people understand. There’s nothing in the world like seeing a look of pure adoration on your dog’s face.
Okay, figs? Let’s talk about those. I got hold of my figs from a guy in Pittsboro who has several trees and more figs than he can handle. I had about six pounds total, and we made all of it into preserves.
Oh my gosh, the combination of figs, lemon, and lavender… holy cow! You’re not going to believe it. I wish it was January right now so that I could crack open a jar of this stuff and just smell it. It feels like a dip in the ocean when the water is in the 70s it’s so summery. The lemons make it fresh, the lavender gives it some depth, and the small amount of sugar really helps the figs shine through.
And that’s it. Figs, lemon slices, sugar, and lavender. Cooked until your house smells like heaven and the preserves have thickened. Did I tell you that I recently got a Le Creuset pot? It’s beautiful, right?! I got at the Habitat store for so much less than a new one, I don’t even feel like it’s right to tell you how much I paid for it. I think it would just make you sad. Aside from the price tag, it’s white and doesn’t look like it has been used at all. I’m completely smitten, if you couldn’t tell.
Okay, okay, here’s the recipe:
3 pounds of fresh figs
1 lemon, sliced as thinly as you can manage, seeds removed
1 and 1/2 cups sugar (or 1/2 cup for every 1 pound of figs that you’re using)
1 teaspoon dried lavender blossoms
Wash and cut the figs into eighths, then put them into a large, heavy-bottomed (beautiful) pot with the sliced lemon, the sugar and, the lavender. Heat until simmering and stir consistently for about a half hour, or until thickened. You can tell it’s ready when the jam clings to the back of a metal spoon. Pour the hot jam into sterilized half-pint jars, wipe the edges, screw on the lids, and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
Makes about 6 half-pint jars.
Remember, summer doesn’t last. It might seem like the oppressive heat and long days have no end in sight, but one day–not too long from now–you’ll wish for the heavy plop of a ripe fig in the palm of your hand. Hopefully, you’ll have something as delightful as this jam to remind you of the feeling.