Being married to the love of my life has been, well, more than I could have ever hoped for. We have our own separate interests, of course, but there are many we share. Interestingly, canning seems to be one of them.
This year, when the fig tree began bearing fruit, Steve and I developed a recipe for lemon, fig pepper jam. It’s sweet and lemony with just a hint of cayenne heat. It pairs perfectly with mild cheeses (like Neufchâtel) as well as bold blues like Cambozola. The neatest part is that the figs and peppers were grown right here, on our quarter acre homestead.
We put up enough to give for Christmas this year, with a few to spare. If you’re interested in purchasing some, let us know.
My next door neighbor, Bill, had the most beautiful fig tree in his yard. Well, it was really in his yard and mine as the tree sits right on the property line. I’m not sure why he planted the tree. He didn’t seem to care for figs. I, on the other hand, love them. So he made sure to remind me, during fig season, to pick all I wanted (and I did—and still do).
I put up figs the way my grandmother, Mama Abear, does. Simmer in sugar water until the syrup is thick and dark and the figs are soft. Fill jars with the figs and syrup & process in a water bath. No lemon or cinnamon–just figs and sugar and water. My favorite way to serve canned figs is to spread them over a wheel of brie with toasted walnuts. They’re delicious with Greek yogurt as well…or alone, thickly slathered on toast. Sweet and warm.
Two years ago, Bill, who was in his 70s at the time, fell while home alone. His family (of whom I hadn’t seen much in the three years I’d been his neighbor) began spending more time with him. I had noticed that he couldn’t always remember my name when he came over or waved from the yard. He’d call out to me, “Hey, neighbor!” I learned later that he was suffering from dementia. Not long after his fall, he went to live in a nursing home.
I miss him. And even though he doesn’t remember me at all now, I think of him every time I pick figs. I am so blessed to have known him, even for a short time. I’m thankful for his friendship. For his charming smile and his war stories. For the way he always watched my house when I traveled. For the pecan yum-yums he brought over fresh from the oven. If only he knew the joy his friendship, and his fig tree, have brought me. I can only hope he knew, since I never told him.
This week I’ll be sure to tell my grandmother what she means to me. And when I put up figs from Bill’s tree, just the way Mama Abear does, I’ll be reminded of the sweetness and warmth that my elders keep giving me.