Fig and Apple Chutney

IMG_2836One of summer’s gifts comes to us from the fig tree in our garden. When its fruit begins to ripen around the first week in July, it seems as if its branches will break from the hundreds of green figs. The foliage is so dense that I really have to work at finding the blushing fruit whose softening texture and slight bent on the stem say “pick me” even more than the color. This year because we had such a wet June, the harvest began a bit sooner. Picking twice a day can be a chore, especially as the temperatures rise.  We have many ways we like to use the figs, but because I know we won’t use all of them, I start giving bags away to those I know love figs, and try to make at least one batch of fig chutney.  This year, the figs I used for a small batch were almost the last to ripen.  Because of the sudden extreme heat, the tree went into preservation mode and all the green figs on the tree stopped ripening, hardened, and began to drop.  Even though we watered heavily, there were no more ripe figs.  So the few little jars of fig and apple chutney will have to do. It is some of the best I have made, so I will certainly try the recipe again next year.

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Fig and Apple Chutney

1 pound of fresh figs

2 apples 1

1 1/4 cup of sugar

1 / 2 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Clean the figs and halve or quarter depending on size. Peel and cut apples into cubes. Put everything in a saucepan with sugar, vinegar, spices and salt. Heat until boiling. Reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Ladle the hot chutney in sterilized jars. Close immediately. Turn the jars over until completely cooled. Best after 2 or 3 days. I store mine in the refrigerator.

The Real Dill

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 In Texas, we consider dill a cool-weather annual. Plant this herb in the fall, typically mid- to late October, and you can begin harvesting leaves around eight weeks later. It prefers temperatures between 40º and 78º F, but you’ll find mature plants are frost-tolerant.

Our dill harvest is usually over long before we have much to pickle. To preserve dill for the cucumber or okra harvest yet to come, cut fresh dill fronds and bloom heads into segments  2 to 3 inches in length. Fill a gallon-sized glass jar with the dill segments and completely cover with white vinegar (or your pickling vinegar of choice). If the jar has a metal lid, be certain to cover the jar first with a double layer of plastic wrap before screwing on the metal lid. This will prevent corrosion. Place the jar in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to start pickling your harvest. By then, your pickling vinegar will be well flavored and can be used as directed in a favorite recipe. I found this information in  a Texas Gardener magazine article.

One of our family’s favorite “real dills” is pickled okra. To use the preserved dill and vinegar as described above, use this recipe for small batches of pickled vegetables. We also like to add sliced jalapenos.

Basic Pickling Liquid

2 cups dill infused cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 whole cloves garlic
3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup equal parts mustard seed, black peppercorns, coriander seed, dill seed and lightly crushed red pepper (approx. 2-1/2 teaspoons each)

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Pour hot liquid over clean, prepared vegetables, add some of the reserved dill leaves and stems from the dill vinegar, and refrigerate until well flavored.

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