News travels fast. Various California food agencies, informed, no doubt, of my less than satisfying experience in the mega markets of the Golden State, are attempting to remedy the situation.
I just received a mailing from the "Dried Fig Advisory Board." (Ponder that title.) The fig people ask one of those questions you never thought of asking: "Whoever heard of Christmas without dried figs?" (Is that anything like New Year's Eve without a date?)
Figs and dates were certainly on hand in old Bethlehem and English carolers extol figgy pudding. But in the event that your tree is not strung with California figs and that flaming figs are not traditionally served with wassail in your home, the Fig Board has come up with several suggestions.
Try their holiday wine spiced figs or the cranberry fruit relish. Both are good. ("Mrs. Santa's coffee cake" starts with frozen hot roll mix, so I'll skip it. I also omitted the frozen Christmas pudding, which mixes chocolate ice cream with figs. Would you do that to chocolate ice cream? To figs?)
The figs being promoted by the fig board are the sticky brown "Calimyrna" (or Smyrna) type. Black "Mission" figs are somewhat less sweet, also delicious but less often used in cooking. Greek Calamata figs are the type sold on a string and are also less suited for cooking.
Figs are an excellent addition to a winter fruit bowl. Plump them with the fingertips and pull the little stems straight up before serving them.
Try buying the ones at Second Nature, which do not contain sulphur dioxide or other preservatives and consequently taste much better. (The natural dried Turkish apricots at Second Nature are truly remarkable.)
Holiday Wine Spiced Figs
1 1/2 cups dried figs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup wine vinegar
1/2 cup port wine
1 stick cinnamon
12 whole cloves
Rise figs, cover with water, and simmer 20 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid. Combine one-half-cup of the cooking liquid with remaining ingredients and stir to dissolve sugar. Add figs and boil 10 minutes longer. Allow to stand overnight in syrup. Serve as a fruit relish with roast pork or turkey. Makes about one pint.
Cranberry Fruit Relish
1 cup dried figs
1 apple, cored and cubed
1 orange, cut into 6 wedges
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/4 cup walnuts
3/4 cup sugar
Grind figs, apple, orange, cranberries, and nuts together, using coarse blade of food grinder. Stir in sugar. Chill several hours or overnight. Makes four cups. (Note: Stir in two to three tablespoons Cointreau, Triple Sec, or Grand Marnier before chilling for a little extra Christmas spirit.)
Do give a fig this Christmas!