Charred Onion and Dried Fig Preserve

What You'll Need

  • measuring cups and spoons
  • mandoline or sharp knife
  • water bath canner with rack
  • 6-7 half pint canning jars and lids
  • parchment paper
  • baking sheet
  • jam pan or other heavy-bottomed pot
  • canning funnel
  • clean kitchen towels
  • 2 1/2 lbs red onions, sliced thin
  • 2 1/3 cups brown or demerara sugar
  • 11/4 lbs pounds dried figs, chopped, stems removed
  • 1 3/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon pink peppercorns
  • 1/2 Tablespoon black peppercorns
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp ras el hanout (or 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/4 tsp curry powder, 1/4 tsp smoked paprika 1/4 tsp cinnamon)

We debated what to call this recipe; is it a jam, a relish, a chutney? "Preserve" is what we settled on, a broad, catch-all term that is not too specific. This recipe neither uses nor creates pectin in the traditional sense of a jam, but the soft dried figs and sweet charred onions are so thick that the consistency is thick and dense without a gel set. Because of this, the recipe can easily be doubled, if you want to make a few more for gifts in the coming season. A subtle spicing adds nuance to the sweetness and acid; one tester exclaimed, grinning, “It tastes like Christmas!” A little early, perhaps, but preserves keep quite well in the pantry, for at least a year.

If you don’t have the ras el hanout on hand, use the variation listed on the ingredients section.

Makes 6 or 7 half pints

Adapted from a recipe found in The Preservatory: Seasonally Inspired Recipes for Creating and Cooking with Artisanal Preserves by Lee Murphy

onion fig preserve ingredientsDirections

Prepare a water bath canner and jars, and set them to boil while you make the preserve. Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Using a mandoline or sharp knife, slice the onions into thin half moons.
slice onions with mandolineSpread the onions out on a baking sheet; use parchment paper, or oil the baking sheet lightly to preventspread onions on baking sheet sticking. Sprinkle about 1 cup of the sugar over the onions and toss to combine.

add sugar
toss to combineBake the onions at 425° F to cook them through, then transfer the sheets to the broiler and leave them there for 3-5 minutes each, to get a nice char.
bake until charredAs the onions cook, prepare the figs. Cut each fig into thin 1/4 inch slices, making sure to discard the hard stem from each fruit.chop figs discard hard stem
In a jam pan or other heavy-bottomed pan, combine the chopped figs and broiled onions with the remaining vinegar, salt, and spices.
add figs to pot with vinegarBring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low, stirring often.
stir often
As the liquid begins to reduce, stir continuously to avoid scorching. Cook until the mixture has reached a thick, jam-like consistency.
cook until thickenedTurn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, then ladle into sterilized jars. ladle into sterilized jarsWipe jar rims, secure lids, and process 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.
process in water bath canner

Remove the jars from the canner with a jar lifter and gently set on a clean towel. Allow cooling before storing in a cool, dark place. Check that your jars have sealed properly. Jars that have not properly sealed can be stored in the refrigerator or eaten immediately.

Serve with pears and a sharp white cheese. Also excellent on burgers and sandwiches.

serve with a cheese plateIf you are not familiar with the water bath canning method watch our water bath canning video workshop. Always make sure you are following all safety guidelines outlined by the USDA when canning anything.

Over to You

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