A Touch Of Vanilla Extract Does Wonders For Your Homemade Fig Jam

As fresh figs are only available a short time of the year, fig preserves or jam has a special place in the cupboard. Capturing the natural sweetness of the fruit for year-long enjoyment, fig jam is as at home swirled in a nutty loaf cake as it is spread on a gooey brie and bacon sandwich. It can even add a caramel sweetness to a bourbon cocktail. This flavorful versatility makes it a coveted pantry item. But while making fig preserves is a relatively easy business, the home cook may be ignoring a key ingredient to include in the mixture: vanilla extract. 

Most bakers already know that vanilla extract can enhance any plain baked good, from a blueberry muffin to a chocolate chip cookie. Yet, it's often neglected when it comes to making sauces or jams. After all, we expect most of the flavor to come from the natural fruit we are using, not from any extract add-ins. But that's not the way you should look at vanilla extract in this instance. It won't cloud that soft fig flavor, only enhance it. While figs bring a mild, honeyed sweetness, the vanilla adds a complimentary floral note that isn't overpowering. So how should you go about adding a bit of vanilla extract to your next jar of fig jam? 

Vanilla and fig are a natural pairing

First, know that you will be stirring in your vanilla extract after all the cooking for your jam is done. High heat will cook off the alcohol-based extract flavor, severely decreasing the overall vanilla taste. Only after you've taken your fig preserves off the stove top should you stir in your extract. Second, consider how much fig jam you plan to make. For roughly a pound of figs, about a teaspoon of vanilla extract should suffice. If you're making a particularly large batch, you may want to go all the way up to a tablespoon. Vanilla bean paste would also work in a pinch, in roughly the same amounts. 

However, if you'd rather use a vanilla bean pod, you'd change up timing of when you'd add the vanilla to the jam. Instead, you'd add the scraped vanilla bean seeds and empty pod to the pot while the jam is cooking, as this type of vanilla is not as sensitive to heat. Use a whole vanilla bean for every 1-2 pounds of figs. Afterward, you would simply remove the pod and can the jam as directed. 

Whatever vanilla product you decide to add to your homemade jam, you'll immediately notice a sophisticated depth to the jam that wasn't there before. It's all thanks to that seductive vanilla bean essence.