Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Fear of Canning: Spiced Lemon Fig Jam

This is one of those things that I don’t tend to talk about, because once it is out there, there is no taking it back, and honestly I would rather not find out that I am actually alone in this.  Here it goes anyway, I have found my 20’s to be rife with insecurities.  Most people seem to reminisce and romanticize their 20’s so much that at points I have felt like I must be doing it all wrong, thus the insecurities.  Though I am finding my way more, and refining my once vibrant confidence I still find those moments when uncertainty seems to be trailing my every move.  I am in awe of the confidence that I vibrated with in my teens, some of it certainly an act, but so much so that I believed it myself.  Back then I didn’t doubt anything.  I honestly can’t wait until I stop feeling so nervous about each new undertaking.

A very over-ripe Fig

Most of it has had to do with the idea of being an adult and realizing that I have no idea what that entails.  As I mentioned recently for the first few years out of college I worked in a bookstore, which I absolutely loved.  With that, though, came disapproval from my parents and (so I thought) judgment from others.  Why was I working in retail with my degree, why wasn’t I making more money?  With the best of intentions, these types of questions tended to cement the fact that I felt like I was doing it all wrong.  At the time and still sometimes now it always felt like everyone else had it down and it was just me stumbling around. 

I know better than all of this of course.  I look back at each new thing that I was scared to try, certain that I was going to do it wrong, and many of those same things are second nature to me now.  More often than not it turns out that I am very good at many new things, and I know how to ask the right questions so that I learn how to do whatever it is correctly.  For some reason I still go into the unknown with some serious insecurity.  I will say that after making the move from New York to California my confidence has risen considerably.  I mean really I did that and survived/succeeded what else can really knock me down?  Besides canning that is.

I have wanted to start canning for years, sometime around the time my husband started working on farms and bringing me home excess amounts of whatever was in season.  But each season and each year has found me too nervous/unsure/insecure to actually try to can anything.  I blame it on the fact that I think about things too much, and then to make is worse I research.  When you research canning you find out that if you don’t do it right you make people sick.  Bad sick.  Making people sick is not something that I am interested in, especially people outside of my household.  My husband will probably forgive me, but what about the people that I give these canned goodies to?  It was all just too much for me to handle, and since I didn’t have anyone to actually teach me to can I never tried. 

Last year I made a refrigerator fig jam that was pretty incredible, and I got very anxious that I did not know how to can it so that I would have it all year.  So, this year when fig season came around I vowed to learn how to can so that I would have the jam all year.  I read a lot, I googled a lot, and in the end I feel pretty foolish that I did not try this a long time ago.  I did have trouble with the fact that most of the fig jams out there were pretty strait forward with minimal ingredients but I found a few to give me an idea that last years recipe was right on, I just had to actually can it.  So I went out and got a big pot with a tray in the bottom, some Ball jars, and a jar lifter.  In the end we jarred three different batches of jam, one batch of marinated roasted peppers, pickled carrots, and pickled grapes.  Hopefully we will be making some regular pickles pretty soon too.  Now that I actually bit the bullet and learned how to can I seem to want to “put up” everything.  So, at the age of 27 I have gotten over one more hang up and learned to can.

 How old were you when you started canning?

What kind of cooking fears do you have?

This was one of the many books that I referenced to figure out what I was doing:

Shop Indie Bookstores

And this site helped answer a lot of my question.

Spiced Lemon Fig Jam
Though the recipe is my own I followed the process here

24 medium figs chopped
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ packet pectin*
½ cup water
Zest of 2 lemons
1.5 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons honey
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Prepare your jars and lids for canning.

In a medium pot bring lemon juice, pectin, water and figs to a rolling boil.

Add remaining ingredients, stirring occasionally bring pot back to a boil & allow to boil for 1 minute.

Turn off heat and skim foam from top of jam, allow jam to sit for five minutes.

Take jars from hot water and line up on counter, using a funnel fill each jar, leaving a ¼ inch at the top.

Remove air bubbles from jars.

Put on and tighten lids, and process jars in boiling water for 5-10 minutes

*I used a minimal amount of pectin because I felt like I had to use it, this is not a runny jam so next time I don’t think I am going to use any at all.  It’s all up to you and what you prefer.

I also think that more spice could be added to this with nice results, let me know any combos you try out.

Of course now that I have figured it out some other great Sacramento food bloggers have been putting out some fig jam recipes, you can check them out here and here.


  1. We had a different path because I became a mother at such a young age. I don't recall having time for insecurities in my 20's, however, I am sure they must have been there. What you do need to remember is that it gets so much easier. Seriously. I certainly do not think I have all the answers but my 30's have been a revelation of strength and confidence. It's a beautiful thing and I am sure you will get there. I saw glimpses...

    Now, on to the jam...beautiful jam! I didn't know fig jam was so pretty. This is an embarrassing confession but...I'm not sure I ever had a fresh fig!

  2. Hang in there. I would not say that the insecurities totally disappear with experience (read age), but they become less consuming.

    Growing up on farm, my sister and I were exposed to canning at an early age.

    I wish we had figs here! That jam looks marvelous. Looks like you have mastered the art of canning!

  3. I don't know that I'm perpetually nervous or afraid. It's more I feel like I flirt with fear the way you flirt with a man who is all wrong for you. At times I step dangerously close to it and at times I am consumed. But, I've realized I even fear a man who is good for me, which makes me think not all fear is bad. It makes me push harder every day and for that I am thankful. I'm glad California has brought you so much confidence. It seems to be a place where we can really discover ourselves.

    I haven't ever canned before, but I have signed up for a class in November and I can't wait to try. I too want to use it for gifts! Thanks for a great recipe.

  4. We just started canning this year. I have a degree in culinary arts and instead of making me feel more secure it made me more paranoid. Botulism! Death! Having to endure the eternal mocking of my family after giving them poison jam! I bought the Ball Canning Book THREE years ago. I think left to my own devices it would have say forlornly on my shelf forever. But my husband bought six cases of jars, and a jar lifter and various other things and we picked 40 pounds of apples. So far we have made apple butter, carrot cake jam, and fruit ketchup. In the next two weeks we are making marmalade, cranberry mustard and what led me to your blog, fig jam! It's been a lot of fun and next year we are expanding to tomato sauce, paste, carrots, pickles and strawberry jam. I am really interested in the Ball recipe for Bar Le Duc( de Luc?) anyhow the one for currant jam. I feel totally silly for not jumping in before this.

  5. I can totally relate to your fears about canning....that's why I make so many liqueurs! I also make small quantities, keep them in the fridge, use them quickly and freeze things like syrup. As for insecurities, I find they come and go in cycles (not really related to age!)

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