Fig & Onion Conserve

We’re only on our third month, but so far each month I’ve been surprised and delighted by what our challenge ingredient is for the Tigress Can Jam. This month? Alliums. In other words, onions, garlic, and the like.

Ode To The Onion by Pablo Neruda

luminous flask,
your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.
Under the earth
the miracle
and when your clumsy
green stem appeared,
and your leaves were born
like swords
in the garden,
the earth heaped up her power
showing your naked transparency,
and as the remote sea
in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
duplicating the magnolia,
so did the earth
make you,
clear as a planet
and destined
to shine,
constant constellation,
round rose of water,
the table
of the poor.

You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
unmoving dance
of the snowy anemone

and the fragrance of the earth lives
in your crystalline nature.

How could anyone not like onions after reading that?

I was hoping the garlic in my garden would have produced scapes in time, but we seem to be in a weird place for alliums in Austin – we’ve been getting green garlic and scallions since January, but not much else. That’s why I almost squealed with delight when I saw bags of red onions at the Hill Country Farms stand at the Sunset Valley Farmer’s market. Melted down and combined with figs and balsamic, it becomes a flavorful conserve that goes fantastically with just about any cheese (in my opinion).

Day 75/365: Fig Onion Conserve

Fig & Onion Conserve

3 cups red onion, sliced very thin
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced dried figs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the onions and stir to coat. Cover, turn heat down to medium-low, and cook the onions until caramelized.
Remove the lid and stir in the figs, sugar, and balsamic. Cook until the liquid is almost completely evaporated. Adjust to your taste with a little more sugar or vinegar, pack into jars, and process in a water-bath canner for about 15 minutes.
Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups.

EDIT: Please don’t trying water-bath canning this recipe without reading all the comments. I definitely do not want anyone to get sick using a recipe I posted. I will be trying it again using the recommended levels of vinegar/lemon juice, and let you know how it tastes.

23 Responses to Fig & Onion Conserve

  1. Vegetable Matter March 18, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    I’ve been craving figs lately. I have a fig pie I’m dying to make, can’t wait for fresh figs to hit Texas. Your conserve looks great in the mean time.


  2. gloria March 18, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    What a great combination. I’m definitely going to make your conserve, it sounds the business and as if it could go in any kind of sandwich


  3. RJ Flamingo March 18, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    I swear, we must have been separated at birth! Love these flavors, and I did something similar, though more of a pickle. Yours is beautiful!


  4. Talia March 18, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    That looks beautiful: so dark and rich. Where did you get the recipe? I had thought using oil was problematic in a water bath canning situation but it sure would make lots of new options available!


    Megan Reply:

    @Talia – The recipe is based on one that used cranberries. For some reason I didn’t bookmark the darn thing and I can’t seem to find it again.

    I’m hoping it is safe, although doing more reading now I’m a little worried. Supposedly the oil won’t be the problem, if there is one, as it is mostly cooked away with the onion. *fingers crossed*


  5. tigress March 18, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    i agree. this looks delicious! but i would check the source – the oil/vinegar ratio looks suspect to me. where did it come from?


    Megan Reply:

    @tigress, I’ve been trying to find the source again since last night but I must not be using the same search string.

    I’m getting paranoid now because I didn’t even think of the acid levels. What *should* the ratio be?


  6. kaela March 18, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    I have a feeling the acid level is too low: based on this paper,

    it took a 1/4 cup of lemon juice to safely acidify 2 cups of raw onions, and vinegar is somewhat less acidic than lemon juice, balsamic even less so. Looks like you would have needed 1/4 + 1/8 cup lemon juice, and even more than that of vinegar.

    I seem to remember that figs are borderline acidic (like tomatoes, but I can’t find the reference) so would require further acidification (it would have been much more acidic with cranberries). The 3 tbsp of olive oil is a lot for a canning recipe, and could further impact the recipe, allowing little pockets of oil in which botulism may develop.

    If I made this, I put it in the fridge and eat within a couple of weeks. If you could cut the oil way down (1 to 2 tsp) and double the vinegar (or add lemon juice?) I bet it would be safe to can.


    tigress Reply:

    @kaela, bringin’ out the scientific papers! good stuff! :)


    Megan Reply:

    @kaela, Thank you SO much. I’m going to try the recipe again using your suggestions. I feel really embarrassed that I didn’t verify the safety of the recipe before I posted it.


  7. kaela March 18, 2010 at 4:18 pm #

    I’m ALL about the data. :)

    FWIW, I recently made a strawberry rhubarb & caramelized onion jam; while the fruit gave me lots of acid, I was able to get a lovely caramelized flavor with only 1 tsp of oil/1 cup onions. With low heat and a non-stick pan, I’m sure you could go pretty low on the oil content.

    Being a science geek and knowing far too much about microbiology, I’m pretty conservative about this stuff. (I think it was the mild panic attack I had the first time I handed a jar of my homemade jam to my friend’s 4 year-old daughter the prompted the thought – I *really* have to find out what I’m doing!)

    There are plenty of times when I tinker with a recipe to the point where I think.. hmmm. That seems kind of dodgy – into the fridge she goes. Not exactly a problem to have something delicious in the fridge that you HAVE to eat up within the next few weeks. And therein lies the beauty of the Can Jam; we all get to share delicious recipes, while keeping each other safely in the Botulism-Free Zone. :)


  8. Julia March 18, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    I do not think you will have any trouble keeping this in the fridge until it’s gone. Good god, woman, it looks gorgeous! Cheese plate, please!


  9. Sarah B. Hood March 18, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    This is a great discussion. I had a similar panic attack about my shallots; I was planning to toss in about half a cup of port, and then did a lot of searching to find out what the acid level of port is. When I found that wine in general has a surprising low acid content compared to vinegar, I panicked, recooked with all-vinegar (including two 6% vinegars) and reposted. I actually lay awake at night in a cold sweat until I got up and edited the original recipe online.

    But tell me, how is it that many recipes for pickle brine can be half water? Does the salt change the botulism ball game???


  10. Cindy K March 19, 2010 at 6:50 am #

    Yummmmm!! Going to make this to go with the ham for Easter dinner!


  11. Kirsa March 19, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    i’d really be interrested in knowing how it turns out as a new version, because it sounds VERY yummy.
    when you try it again, are you going to add comments here ? (i’ll check the “notify me of f/u comments via email” thing in hopes you do)


    Megan Reply:

    @Kirsa, I’ll definitely be posting an update!


  12. Kate March 19, 2010 at 8:06 pm #

    Great thread of comments. Pleased to read and itchin’ to make this (and not can it!) for a party involving copious amounts of cheese.


  13. Kate March 19, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    Um, can I also say that the Neruda poem (and to remember to drop it in at a time like this: alliums month) is completely perfect, my dear.


  14. maninas March 20, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    First time visitor, I was impressed both by the fact that you added a poem and the gorgeous fig and onion conserve!


  15. meg March 23, 2010 at 12:32 am #

    Oh how I love figs! Figs & onions?! Fantastic! Cheese, homemade crackers and a gin & tonic in hand would be perfect!


  16. karen September 11, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    I grew up eating fig preserves that were only equal parts figs and sugar (by weight) and they were cooked until translucent and thick, packed into sterilized jars and sealed with melted wax. No one ever got sick eating any of them. I am not encouraging anyone to follow that practice but I still preserve figs the same way and only add a few lemon slices per jar and then process with the canning lids for 20 minutes. Used those preserves as much as a year later.



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