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Turn fresh figs into versatile topping

Recipe: Easy fig compote with orange and vanilla

These fresh Kadota figs will become compote -- much easier than jam.

These fresh Kadota figs will become compote -- much easier than jam. Debbie Arrington

I love fig jam, but I rarely have enough ripe figs at the same time to make a large batch. Also, ripe figs are pretty sweet on their own. Do they really need all that extra sugar?

The solution: Make fig compote. The recipe can be scaled up or down according to the amount of ripe figs on hand. And it uses just a fraction of the sugar as traditional jam.

What’s the difference between jam and compote? Jam relies on lots of sugar to preserve the fruit. With about equal parts mashed fruit to sugar, it has a more even texture and is easier to spread on toast. Compote uses larger chunks of fruit and less sugar. It tends to be more sauce than spread but -- with soft fruit like figs -- can still top toast or English muffins. Since it contains less sugar, compote has a shorter shelf life. It’s made to enjoy right away (or be kept in the refrigerator).

Another plus for compote: No added pectin is necessary. The mixture naturally thickens as it cooks.

Fig compote in a clear bowl
Fig compote, ready to use.

This easy compote keeps the fig color and flavor bright with the addition of an orange – its juice and zest. Vanilla adds another interesting note of flavor.

While slightly under-ripe figs are best for jam, this compote can use figs so ripe they’re almost falling apart. Another plus: There’s no need to peel.

Serve fig compote as an accompaniment to grilled pork or poultry, alongside brie on a cheese platter or as a topping on vanilla ice cream. Or spread it on some crackers or toast.

Easy fig compote

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 pound ripe figs

1 whole orange

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Cut stems off figs. Cut figs into quarters, then half each quarter.

Transfer to a heavy saucepan.

Zest the orange, then juice the orange, straining out any seeds. Add orange zest and juice to the figs. Stir in sugar.

Over medium heat, heat the fig mixture to a boil, stirring often. Let boil for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer the fig mixture, stirring often, until it reaches its desired thickness – about 20 to 30 minutes. The compote should be thick and mound in a spoon.

Once it reaches desired thickness, remove compote from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool.

Store compote covered in the refrigerator; use within a week. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

Fig compote also can be frozen for up to 6 months.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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