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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


1 pound ripe figs

1 whole orange

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla


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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For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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