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Drying figs

  • j
  • Junie D Aug 25, 2005 06:03 PM

There is a 50-plus year old gnarled fig tree in our backyard. In late August I call it "paradise for grackles" and shoot them gleefully with my Super Soaker water gun at least hourly. It has green-yellow fruit with mildly pink centers which get more luscious and honey-like the longer they sag on the tree.

So, I am prepared for the onslaught this year with Ellen's compilation of recipes/suggestions and eat them pretty much three meals a day (tomatoes too). But we can't possibly keep up and so I after trying unsuccessfully to dry them in the oven, have started drying them in an ancient hand-me-down dehydrator. The few I dried last year were good, and seemed to be best if the fruit was dead ripe. But they still were a bit dry, some of them, not chewy and sticky like dried figs I have bought. How far should I let them go in the dehydrator? Is it better short time/high heat or low heat/long time (not that I can control it) - or suggestions for oven drying?

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  1. Lucky you. What variety of fig do you have?

    A family friend recently gave me a flat of beautifully plump black mission figs that were molding quickly, so I rushed to use them up. I made SG's cake again w/ halved figs (below). Flavor was good, although my least favorite of the fruit cakes I've made thus far. I also got greedy and creative and added some mascarpone to the batter which impeded rising, for some reason.

    Didn't think about oven-drying them, but that's a good idea. I don't know for sure, but I would think for any dehydrating you'd want to go low (about 200F) and slow.

    I'm using the rest of the figs in a Zuni recipe for chicken legs braised w/ figs accented w/ honey and vinegar. That has to be good. If it turns out well, I'd be happy to pass on the recipe. I also saw Lidia Bastianich make a fig focaccia this past weekend on her PBS show that looked fabulous.

    BTW, I would love to find a great recipe for homemade fig newtons. Kind of like a lemon bar recipe but w/ figs instead. Anyone have something like that out there?

    Image: http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

    5 Replies
    1. re: Carb Lover

      I think there's a fig newton recipe in the Silverton La Brea Bakery pastry book?

      A while back somebody was looking for a recipe for the Spanish pressed, dried fig "cake" called pan de higos-the one you often see for sale at cheese counters. I recently found a recipe that I'll post.

      1. re: petradish

        Thanks for the tip; I'll see if my library has the Silverton book.

      2. re: Carb Lover

        I've got the Zuni cookbook out of the library (I just keep renewing - it has been months!) and will definitely make the chicken - sounds wonderful. Unfortunately only uses 8 to 10 figs! Gorgeous cake.

        I have no idea what variety our figs are. They are green - more yellow when really ripe, barely pink inside. I'll have to take some down to the Master Gardeners or nursery. There are several of these massive old trees in the neighborhood, so big the kids climb in them, so it is something that was popular way way back.

        1. re: Junie D

          I love how the fig cake looks and the flavor isn't bad, but I think the cake is too delicate for a full-textured fruit like figs. It would be better w/ a tart or shortbread crust.

          Made the Zuni recipe late last night for a latenight dinner (10pm!). I highly recommend it! Another Judy Rodgers winner that's so easy, balanced, sensuous. The meat was so flavorful and luscious. Great dish for company, although a fair number of people don't like figs. When figs aren't available, I'm going to sub in prunes. I also think that halved fresh plums or pluots would work nicely.

          Tips: Brown the meat to a deep golden before putting in oven; I wish I had taken mine a touch darker. I used thigh-leg meat. Don't let figs cook too long over heat; some of mine got way too soft. If you have alot of figs, doesn't hurt to use a little more in this recipe. I didn't serve w/ anything since we were eating so late, but I was thinking it would go great w/ couscous w/ pine nuts and wilted swiss chard.

          Image: http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

        2. re: Carb Lover

          Hi Carb Lover,

          Chez Panisse Fruit has a recipe that came from Lindsey Shere/Downtown Creamery in Healdsburg.

        3. I wonder if commercially dried figs are sulfited. Much dried fruit is. Most dried apricots, for example, are plump and moist and loaded with sulfur dioxide. You can get unsulfured apricots; they are like leather (though they can be tasty when soaked).

          To sulfite fruit before drying it, you could try spraying it with a solution of potassium metabisulfite (available at a wine-making supply store).

          Or you could put it an enclosed space and burn elemental sulfur in the enclosed space. Special "sulfur candles" are available for that purpose.

          But that's just a guess. The local Agricultural Extension could be of help.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Joel Teller

            Yes, thanks, good point - sulfur does keep apricots stickier. I have a container of Trader Joe's figs that includes sulfur dioxide. And potassium sorbate, by the way.

          2. Could also make a fig jam/preserve/confitures. Christine Ferber's book has recipes for it.

            1. Your figs sound sort of like Calimyrnas.

              Link: http://www.calfreshfigs.com/cffgafigd...

              1 Reply
              1. re: petradish

                They definitely could be. They have that squat shape and yellow tinge that Calimyrnas have and Calimyrnas are often dried. This valley was certainly known for dried fruit (prunes, figs, apricots) before it became a grape monoculture. Thanks so much for the link about freezing - it had not occurred to me and my dehydrator racks are too short to dry very many fat figs at a time.