I enjoy making fig jam in late summer (especially rich Mission Fig jam), but fruit isn't the only culinary ingredient a fig tree yields — fig leaves make an unusual syrup that's perfect for glazing savory and sweet foods (it's a nice alternative to maple syrup for pancakes, too). My recipe below presents you with two options: liquid fig leaf syrup or fig leaf jelly. If you want jelly, all you need to do is set the syrup with pectin in step no. 6 below and use jars instead of bottles.
Fig Leaf Syrup / Jelly
(yields approximately eight cups of syrup or jelly)
15 large fig leaves from an insecticide-free tree (rinse the leaves with cold water before use, and if the leaves are huge you may cut them in quarters). If your fig trees grow near a busy road where they are exposed to constant exhaust fumes, buy your fig leaves from a grocery store!
5 cups filtered water
4 cups dark, rich honey (or 2 cups honey and 2 cups treacle)1. Both versions have a lovely coconut-like flavor from the fig leaves, but the honey-treacle combination, of course, has a lighter honey flavor.
Heat-resistant swing-top glass bottles with ceramic caps and rubber/silicone gaskets or jelly jars.
1. In a large stainless steel pot, combine the water and honey (or water, honey and treacle). Bring the sweetened water to a simmer and remove the pot from the heat source.
2. Put the washed fig leaves into a large heat-proof glass bowl and pour the hot, sweetened water over the leaves, making sure the fig leaves are covered completely with liquid. Cover the glass bowl with a clean cotton dish towel until the mixture cools.
3. When the mixture is room temperature, place a double layer of plastic wrap over the bowl and let the mixture “cure” at room temperature for a day.
4. NEXT DAY (ready to process): sterilize glass bottles or jars and their accompanying caps/gaskets or bands/lids.2
5. Gently squeeze the fig leaves over the glass bowl and discard the leaves. Strain the (leafless) liquid through a jelly bag.
6. For syrup, heat the strained liquid to a boil and immediately remove from the heat. For jelly, heat the strained liquid to a boil and add pectin (following the manufacturer's instructors for amounts and cooking time).
7. Pour your syrup/jelly into the sterilized bottles or jars, clean off any sticky syrup residue from the bottles' or jars' rims with a clean, damp towel; put on caps/gaskets or lids/bands and water process for 10 minutes.2
Your syrup or jam will last up to two years but tastes best if used within a year; store in the refrigerator after opening.
One of my favorite uses for fig leaf syrup is in a vodka cocktail (add just a little syrup at a time till you find your ideal vodka/syrup ratio); instead of the usual sliver of citrus at the glass's rim, use a fig slice. For those of you with a sweet tooth, drizzle some fig leaf syrup over fresh figs (cut in half) and serve with thin slices of toasted olive oil-and-orange rind pound cake and cheddar or goat cheese.
Happy autumn to all NST'ers!
1. Often sold as "Golden Syrup."
Note: all photos by the author.