Most Afrikaners grew up in homes where rows & rows of jams, pickles & chutneys were stuffed into bulging pantry shelves, jostling for position – a legacy from an era where everything edible was preserved just in case. Groenvyekonfyt may not have originated in the Afrikaner kitchens but almost every home had a few jars squirreled away for special occasions; it was served with cheese & at Christmas, became an essential ingredient in the trifles & Christmas puddings inherited from the Brits.
Please bear in mind that it’s a time consuming job so give yourself at least half a day to make them and don’t think you can have a dinner party while you make them in the kitchen. That just won’t work. This recipe is per 100 figs so adjust your recipe according to the quantity at hand. It belongs to my sister who is, without doubt, the most talented jam & preserve maker that I’ve ever met but I have edited it and fiddled with it as I went along because I can never leave well alone.
- 100 green figs, picked the night before with a small piece of stem intact
- 1 heaped tbsp calcium hydroxide (slaked lime) per 3,1 litres of water (you c0uld also use 10ml bicarbonate of soda but my sister prefers the slaked lime, so we use the slaked lime
- 8 young fig leaves
- 2 lemons
- 2 large, heavy bottomed pots plus one smaller one for the second batch of syrup
- Enough sugar for a second batch of syrup for replenishment.
- 1 tsp glycerine (optional)
- 4,5 kg sugar per x 7 litres
- 1 tsp salt
- a few cloves (to taste, I use about 5)
- 1 piece of cinnamon or cassia
- large piece of fresh ginger or a piece of dried ginger (the fresh ginger may give your preserve a pinkish tint)
- Wipe the green figs, well and scrape along the sides with a sharp knife to remove wooliness, cut a cross at the base of the fig.
- Dissolve the slaked lime in a bucket of water (if it’s too much it will simply settle at the bottom) and pop all the figs in; the figs will want to bob up so you need to put a weight on top to keep them down; we put half a colander on top with a weight inside – it keeps the figs in the water.
- The next day, remove the figs from the slaked lime, wash thoroughly to remove the lime & check the figs (one by one) to make sure there are no little black spots; if there are, cut those off; next, take a fork and give about three pricks to the body of the fig (really light pricks, just piercing the skin, you do not want to break the fig or cause any significant damage to the fruit).
- Now do two things simultaneously: 1) put on a large pot for the syrup that you will make with the sugar and water and cook on medium-low so that it bubbles well but not too strongly; 2) put on the second large pot in which you plan to cook the figs: pour in enough water to cover them, add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of alum per 100 figs and boil this for about 15 – 20 minutes (every now and again, you’ll need to push the figs down because they tend to bob up and yes, it’s quite a job because this means you stand in front of the pot for 15 minutes with a spoon to press the little buggers down).
- You know the figs are ready when you can take the back of a match & just pierce the skin of the fig (the skin must not bend back & you don’t want to pierce a loch into the fig, you just need to know if it’s the fig is cooked as required), so if the match goes through, switch off the stove & remove the figs, immediately putting them all in a huge bowl of ice water – in fact, just use the washbasin and fill it with water and ice blocks.
- Your syrup should will be ready to accept the figs now.
- Now the most time consuming job starts: take each fig and gently, very gently, press out as much of the water as you can (the fig will now look all wrinkled and ugly, like a dried prune); once you have a few of them, pop them into the syrup.
- Continue with this process until you have finished all the figs and they have all been put into the syrup (they will now accept the syrup and expand again)
- At this stage you add the cloves, one large piece of fresh ginger (that you have peeled and sliced into two), one large stick of cinnamon; cook this until your syrup looks like oil (it will take about three hours).
- Because the syrup will begin reducing, it’s a good idea to cook your second pot of syrup now; just allow it to simmer on a lowish heat with a small bubble (I start cooking the second pot as soon as the figs are on the go); you will have enough to replenish the syrup as it begins to reduce (syrup is never wasted & can be used for loads of things).
- Two hours before the end, add the fig leaves for better flavour and then, an hour before the end, add the juice of two lemons – it helps prevent the formation of a sugar crust at the bottom of your jars and 1 tsp of glycerine if you’re going to be using it.
- Pack the figs into the sterilized jars and remove the spices & fig leaves from the syrup; pour in enough syrup over the figs to cover them; if you like, you can slice up a fig or two to fill the gaps in the jars so that you don’t need so much syrup.
- You can slice up some of the ginger which has now been preserved & add this to the figs if you like, if not, keep it for yourself and use in desserts.
- Happy fig preserving.