We love jam – on bread, a fresh crispy baguette, brioche, or toast. But mention Corsican fig jam, and it takes on another delicious and intensly fruity, serious role – served with particularly strong cheese and pâtés.
Perhaps you know that my husband, Antoine, is Corsican (Colonna in Corsica is like Smith in England). Cheeses from his “Island of Beauty” (l’île de beauté) are made from sheep’s milk or goat’s milk and many of them are, well, rather pungent. So the addition of fig jam is the perfect marriage on the cheeseboard since its sweetness helps put out the fire.
I say put out the cheese fire, since some Corsican cheeses can be so powerful that Antoine’s grandmother used to keep the robust ones under the chimney, letting their aromatic fumes drift off around the mountain village. She claimed that if she kept one in her fridge, she would have to throw it out: the fridge not the cheese!
What’s the Strongest Cheese?
As a naïve newcomer to Antoine’s Corsican village, I was introduced to Casgiu Merzu by Antoine’s grinning uncle, or Tonton.
Rather than be Jill, I’ll be Frank: it’s the most dangerous cheese I know on this planet since it looks like an innocent little potted cheese with a knife or spoon. Imagine legendary Epoisses, Pont l’Eveque, which are already quite stinky – but multiply Casgiu Merzu’s strength by about ten.
As a result, I’d say that Casgiu Merzu is the strongest cheese in the world. This also has to be the cheese that exploded the boat in Asterix in Corsica. I downed the whole bowl of jam to put out that fire!
Fig Jam Best Accompaniment for Strong Cheeses
Now that it’s such a glorious fig season to see out the summer, I’m preserving the figs as much as I can so that we can enjoy the cheeseboard en famille in Corsica again this Christmas.
Except, I wonder if Father Christmas would dare to come down the chimney?
Just as I was about to post this fig jam recipe, I’ve had an exciting delivery thanks to the lovely people at Terraillon. It’s a digital jam scale! Isn’t that clever? (see my review for jam scales) I’m off to stock up on more end of summer fruits and try it out for you for another of my favourite preserves next week.
You’ll see from the recipe below that it takes up to 2 hours to cook the fruit, which is longer than I would cook other jams but the result is a beautifully rich, dark colour and the flavours of the figs just shine.
Add A Touch of Orange to Fig Jam
I use orange blossom just to add my personal touch, as the Corsicans love using local clementines in their recipes. However, add a vanilla pod/bean and/or spices if you prefer, especially over the festive period for serving with a good cheeseboard or with Goie Gras or other pâtés. Personally it’s also great on its own, if you prefer without the orange blossom.
Corsican Fig Jam
- 1 kg (2lb 3oz) Fresh violet figs
- 1/2 l (17fl oz) Water
- 650 g (1.5lb) Granulated sugar
- 2 tsp Orange blossom water
- Wash and dry the figs carefully using kitchen paper, as the figs must be kept whole. Cut off the top stem.
- In a large heavy-based pan or jam basin, bring the water and sugar (and orange blossom if using) to the boil. As soon as the bubbles start to burst and become bigger, add the figs carefully (watch you don't get splashed!).
- Turn down the heat and leave the figs to bubble away for about 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, sterilise the jam jars. (I normally just stick them in the dishwasher and wait for them to dry in the machine, as it's hot enough. Otherwise wash them in soapy water, rinse and leave in boiling water for 10 minutes.)
- Once the figs are transparent it's ready to mix using a hand blender (or mix in a food processor).
- Pour into the jars and leave to cool before putting on the lids.
Delicious served with Foie Gras or other pâtés. N.B. There’s no need to use special jam-making sugar with pectin. Just normal granulated sugar does the job well with figs.