Some posts take longer to write than others. I really meant to share this Figs Preserved with Lemon & Grand Marnier recipe last month as part of our “harvest” series, but I couldn’t quite get my mind around how to share this little history lesson with you. If you are just here for the recipe, feel free to skip ahead! I don’t want to bore you!
Or, indulge me. This is a food story I love, so I can’t pass up the opportunity to share…
The figs in the picture above come from our friend, Sandra’s, tree.
This particular fig tree is enormous, and, it’s really, really old. Sandra lives in a part of Seattle called Columbia City, in a house built in 1908 by Italian immigrants who were also farmers and orchardists. Columbia City and the surrounding Rainier Valley was all farmland back in the early 1900’s and because of the large population of Italian immigrant farmers, the area was sometimes referred to as Garlic Gulch.
The original owners were the Rosellinis. Rosellini – as in Albert Rosellini, governor of Washington State from 1957 to 1965. Albert grew up in this house and his parents maintained a huge vegetable garden and orchard. Albert’s cousin was none other than Victor Rosellini, Seattle restauranteur and owner of Rosellini’s 610 (opened in 1950) and Rosellini’s Four-10 (opened in 1956) – two of Seattle’s most iconic restaurants from the past.
According to Sandra, the Rosellinis grew produce and fruit on the property which often ended up in the restaurants. It’s entirely possible that the guests at Victor Rosellini’s restaurants ate a dessert made from this very same fig tree over 50 years ago! And, I am sure the governor ate his fair share, too.
So much has changed in Columbia City since Sandra’s house was built back in 1908. The Rosallini property has been divided up into small, urban lots. All of the farms are long gone – replaced by a slightly gritty, urban neighborhood. But each of the yards around Sandra’s house has at least one fruit tree growing in it… Italian Plums, apples, pears – a reminder of the orchard that used to take up an entire block. Columbia City is still home to immigrants – now from all over the world. It’s also a neighborhood in revival, with light-rail, new restaurants, a farmer’s market, and people like Sandra – urban bee-keeper, gardener, orchardist, and amazing cook.
You can see the tree and meet Sandra in this video…
A few months ago, Sandra treated us to a bowl of ice cream topped with preserved figs, lemon, and toasted pine nuts. HEAVEN. When she offered to let us pick figs this year, we new exactly what we would be making: Figs Preserved with Lemon and Grand Marnier.
We found a recipe at wellpreserved.ca and modified it slightly for a larger batch.
Thanks to Sandra for figs and thanks to the Rosellinis for planting that tree! The history behind the tree makes the figs that much sweeter.
- Sterilized canning jars (pint or 8 oz), lids & bands
- Large, baking/casserole dish with lid (or tin foil)
- Water bath with rack for processing
- 5 lbs. fresh figs, washed and cut in half
- 6 small lemons, thinly sliced and seeds removed
- 1 to 2 cups water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 8 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
- 1 cup Grand Mariner
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Beginning with lemon slices, layer the lemons, cinnamon stick pieces, and figs (cut side down) in a large baking dish, alternating layers until all of the figs and lemon slices are used up.
- Combine 1 cup of water with two cups of sugar. Pour this mixture over the top of the figs and use a spatula to gently move it down the sides of the pan and around the figs.
- Place the pan in the oven, uncovered, and bake for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, cover and continue baking for 3 hours more.
- Check the mixture occasionally to make sure their is enough liquid. If the figs seem to be drying out, add more water as needed.
- Remove the figs from the oven and stir in one cup of Grand Marnier.
- Ladle figs, lemon, and juice into sterilized jars - leaving ¼" of head space at the top of each jar.
- Wipe off the rims with a clean, damp towel or paper towel. Top with lids and screw on bands.
- Place jars in a simmering hot water bath and process for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the water and let the jars cool.
- You will hear a "ping" sound when the lids seal. Place any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use first.