Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The time has come, the Southerner said, to talk of many things: of figs and jello and jars and lids, of making mock strawberry jam...

Lewis Carroll I'm not but I sure did borrow his phrase from The Walrus and the Carpenter.  The last couple of weeks, every time I thought a post was all but done (before actually starting on it) something happened and then nothing happened.  Last week I thought surely (and don't call me Shirley) the tomato gravy tutorial would get done for all the poor poor souls that don't know what it is or how to make it.  Youngest Fellow went back to StarkPatch entirely too quickly for us ever to have a decent sit-down breakfast together, the background and reason for the post consequently driving north with him.

I've been fig picking with Mama twice this week out to Mrs. Sue's house.  Bless her heart and mine too;  she's slower this year getting around the same tree the snake ran me out of.  She carried her wooden cane to pull the limbs down to reach the figs easier.

We picked enough for six pints of preserves for her.  I don't care a bunch for fig preserves, having eaten my fair share of them before Frederick came along and took out our own big fig tree.  Mama was tickled with her preserves.  All the rain lately has added a high water content to the flesh of the figs;  the sugar draws a lot of juice that cooks down into a wonderful amber syrup.  Don't get me wrong - I like fig preserves just fine, I just don't care to eat them much any more.  Well.  There's the small limiting factor of not having a milk cow for a ready source of clotted cream too.  And Mama doesn't make cornbread in the little triangle pan any more either.  I suppose if Mama had a milk cow to skim the thickened cream off the top of the bowl the second day after milking and made crunchy cornbread to split and put fig preserves on, lumped high and topped with cream I might still eat a bunch of them.  I don't.  I love figs straight off the tree and into my mouth and cooked into strawberry figs.

I was going to get up this morning and make it, having picked figs again yesterday specifically for a batch.  Mama had a doctor's appointment down in Pascagoula right after lunch so I put the figs in the refrigerator to keep.  They soured.  I wasn't going to make strawberry figs and do a tutorial.   Then I remembered the ones Lindsey brought last week off Libby's tree in the freezer!!!  YAY!  They worked great so without any further ado, I present strawberry figs also known as mock strawberry jam.

This is Mrs. Edna Brewer's recipe for Mock Strawberry Jam.  It's written in the front of the Unity Baptist Church cookbook.  Mrs. Edna's a member there.  When I call these incredible Southern cooks for a specific recipe they make I always write it in the front of the church cookbook where they attend church.  I've lots of recipes written in handfuls of cookbooks in the county.

I called Mrs. Edna for her recipe a few years ago when she told me about the difference in hers and the one I was using at the time.  I had entered a jar of strawberry figs in the local Two Rivers Festival canning contest.  It was summarily dismissed by Mrs. Edna (retired Extension office secretary) as being too thick for jam.  She didn't even judge it!   It didn't hurt my feelings 'cause the vanilla bean-pear jelly I make won a blue ribbon and you really can't win them all, now can you?  I did call Mrs. Edna up the next week for her recipe and have been using it ever since.  Figs, sugar, and jello are all the ingredients necessary.  You can use fruit pectin;  I threw a box in the photo just for good measure but it isn't necessary.

Eight cups of figs, mashed; six cups of granulated sugar; and two LARGE boxes of strawberry jello are all put in a non-reactive pan.

I put the figs, unmashed, into the pan with everything else and smash through them with Grandma's old potato masher.  I'm a sensate sort of person:  I can feel the grains of sugar smashing fig seeds all against the bottom of the pan; the sludge-y sound of working the masher through the mixture is peculiar to my ears; the smell has got to be heavenly -- I can't imagine anything smelling better.

Mine looks like this when I get through playing in it
The sugar needs to work its magic and draw juice from the fruit for a few moments. This is a good stopping point to round up everything else necessary to making jam:  jars, lids, bands, and the jar-filler thingy.

The jars are washed in hot soapy water, rinsed well, and put into the microwave.
Yep.  You see it.  I put hot water in the jars and put them in the microwave on a lower power setting.  It keeps the jars hot and sanitized.  I don't have to worry about the stray Beaudeux hair making its way into one or a jar exploding as hot liquid comes in contact with the glass.

Put the figs/strawberry jello/sugar mixture on to cook, bringing it to a slow boil.  You'll want to stir constantly. This stuff sticks quickly if the heat is too high.  Ewwwwwwww... and there is NOTHING worse than scorched figs in any way shape fashion or form.  Unless it's scorched tomatoes.  I promise...

I have a very large pot on a very large burner.  It will only take these eight minutes or so to become nice and clear and thick.   Adjust the cooking time accordingly to your stove and container.  See the little pot the lids are in?  It's the lid pot.  I don't think I've ever cooked anything in it.

When the syrup is thickened slightly and all the fruit has cooked clear the strawberry figs are ready to be jarred.  Skim the foam from the top and RESERVE for the cook's treat:  white bread with fob!  Mama's always called the foam fob.  I do too.  We love fob with fresh white bread.  When I was young, my brother Joe and I always fought over who was going to help Mama with the lids and bands 'cause THAT person always got to eat the fob.


This was the batch:  four pints and a cup.  I could've grabbed a half-pint jar but then I wouldn't have had anything to share with Mama when she comes to town tomorrow to vendor her eggs.

I always cover cooling jars.  Years ago Mama and I had canned pink-eye purple hull peas.  Coming out of the water bath a jar exploded just from contact with the cooler air.  I've never forgotten the loudness of the event, how far the glass shattered in the kitchen, or the mess we had to clean up.  Y'all be careful when you're canning.  It's enjoyable and gratifying but respect the heat and glass, please.

Mrs. Edna's Mock Strawberry Jam
8 cups mashed figs
6 cups granulated sugar
2 large boxes strawberry jello

Mix all ingredients and let sit until figs begin to draw juice.  Cook on medium heat 8 to 15 minutes or until all fruit is cooked clear and syrup has begun to thicken.  Jar as any other jam or jelly.  Pectin is optional.

Y'all enjoy!  I know I'm tickled just knowing it'll be waiting for me tomorrow!!!


  1. Fortunately I don't have air conditioning in my kitchen. Which, up until now I thought was bad. Now I'm thankful. All this time I've been canning, but didn't have a good concept on what could go wrong until now!

  2. "The time has come" the walrus said "to talk of other things! oh shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings! And why the sea was boiling hot and whether pigs have wings." I love the original but I love the additions made in the Disney version as well. I love reading your stories that accompany your tutorials on good southern ways. Having never cared much for fig preserves there is a part of me deep in my upbringing that won't let me put some on at least half of my biscuit! Now if you can tell me how to pickle quail eggs we will get along swimmingly! ( a treat that if you haven't had i will be sure to bring a jar back for you after my next pilgrimage to Louisiana!

  3. Just wanted to let you know I gave you a bloggie award! You can find it here... Mud Pie a.k.a. Chocolate Cobbler and an Award

  4. I'm all smiles, Chris! It's much more than expected. All the 'likes' on the Facebook site, the making of REAL friends thru a virtual world, the sharing back and forth of lives... AND the "Blogger on Fire" award??? Thank you so much! Nothing is more precious in this realm of blogging than a peer-submitted award!