Fig Jam with Anise and Vanilla

By | Monday, December 14, 2020 Leave a Comment


I have a rather productive fig tree that I planted about 10 years ago. It is a ‘Janice Seedless White Kadota’, a fig that is green outside and green to red-brown inside when ripe. The seeds are very small, so, in comparison to other figs, when you eat them you don’t really get that popping-seed sensation. The flavor is delicious but mild and very sweet. They are not very “figgy” compared to most other figs, particularly those one finds in products like fig-newtons, or commercial fig jam. They almost taste more like light brown sugar than figs. 

This year, as many times in the past, I made fig jam with candied ginger. Always yummy, always a crowd pleaser. But the tree was being super productive and I didn’t want more fig with ginger, so I tried a recipe for fig jam sweetened with honey. That was good, but not as great as it sounded. 

The season stayed surprisingly warm, causing figs to continue to ripen for a long time. I went to my spice drawer to see if there was anything that grabbed me to go along with figs besides ginger. I’d take a bite of fig, then a bite of herb or spice, to see what worked. Anise was a winner.

Looking through my library (including Fig Heaven by Marie Simmons, which contains surprisingly few jam recipes), and searching online, I found no recipes for fig with anise, though I did find one for fig with fennel and vanilla. I went back to the spice drawer to taste my figs combined with fennel seeds again. I felt (as I had on my first trial) that the fennel overpowered the fig. I suspect that this might have a lot to do with the fact that my figs are very mild. I am guessing that a more strongly flavored ‘mission’, ‘blackjack’, ‘turkey’ or other such fig might stand up to fennel where 'kadota' does not. Or it might be that I simply like anise more than fennel. In addition to the fennel flavor, the recipe had some oddities, for example, the author likes her jam with a consistency closer to sauce. Who knows why.

So, I used that recipe as just a broad guideline, combining it with my prior jam making experience to create my own recipe for fig jam with anise and vanilla. Wow! It was an out-of-the-park home run. I’ve taken to just eating it straight from the jar. Yuuuuuhhhhm! The only person that I have given a jar to is my mother. I’m keeping the rest for myself.

Here then is my recipe, with a variety of notes.

[PLEASE NOTE: I consider this to be a recipe in progress. I only had a chance to make it twice before the fig season ended. Though each time it was outstanding, I would not call it “tested.” Next year when fig season rolls around again, I will definitely make more. In the meantime, I present it here because it was so damned good, and to hopefully get feedback and suggestions from you. Regardless, as with any (non-pastry) recipe, it should be considered a framework or a guideline, not a strict set of ingredients and steps. Adjust for yourself depending on your own tastes and conditions.] 

The Recipe: Fig Jam with Anise and Vanilla

Yield 6 cups


3 pounds of kadota figs (macerated in 1lb sugar – see below *)
1/2 additional lbs sugar (May still be a bit too sweet for some tastes *) 
2 pinches salt
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 rounded teaspoon anise seeds
1-2 tsp lemon zest
2.5 tsp vanilla extract (see note **)



* I harvest my figs as they ripen, which can take several days for 3lbs. As I harvest, each day, I cut the stem end off & any bruised parts, cut the figs into quarters, and add them to a large container (I use a 4qt “Cambro”) covered in sugar with a bit of lemon. This then goes in the fridge to wait until I have enough figs and time. I keep note of the quantity of fig and sugar as I add more and more. The sugar and lemon help preserve the fig, and the maceration makes it release liquid (which you use), making it cook more quickly and thus producing a better taste.

When adding sugar before cooking, only add enough to bring the weight of sugar up to ½ the weight of fruit (after cleaning). Even this might be a bit too sweet for some people, or, if using a less sweet fig, you might want more. Adjust to taste.

** The original recipe called for using 1 to 2 vanilla pods, which is what I did for the first batch. Unfortunately, the vanilla seeds made the jam unattractive – full of black specks. For the second batch I used vanilla extract instead. The result was more attractive, less expensive, slightly easier to make, and no less delicious.



Stem and cut up figs. Macerate with sugar & lemon juice in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Put several spoons on a plate in the freezer for testing setting of the jam. I have found the thermometer method unreliable.

Prepare jars for sterile canning using whichever method you prefer, or for freezer jam, etc.

Cook the ingredients (except the vanilla extract), preferably in a jam pot, testing for set using spoons from freezer.

When almost set, stir in vanilla extract.

When set, ladle into hot jars and process. 
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