Fig Pecan Mole Dulce Chutney

Hello, Amy here excited about figs and sweet corn this steamy Tucson summer.

We’ve cooked figs before, and I’m going to make Carolyn’s fig bars next. But normally my preference is for savory food, so today I made a savory, sweet, sour, spicy chutney. I started with gooey ripe black mission figs from my Mom’s tree.

This young fig tree at the community garden is making fruit this year, but with the water harvesting earthworks you can see in the background of this photo, I can’t wait to see what it does next year…

After a rinse, I trimmed the stems from the figs and chopped them. Then I chopped a bit of onion and garlic.

I softened the onion and garlic in butter, then added the figs and a splash of water only as needed to keep it from burning.

Apple cider vinegar and a dash of salt and black pepper wasn’t enough spice, so I added Mole Dulce powder.

Staying indoors in the heat of the day, I’ve been organizing my pantry, removing the stems from dried herbs and shelling nuts.

A sprinkle of pecans gave the chutney a contrasting texture. (By the way, it is gone by now. No need to process jars.)


Spicy Corn and Tomatoes

I had a few ears of sweet corn and a basket of cherry tomatoes from Tucson CSA/Crooked Sky Farms. First I grilled the shucked ears to give them a toasty flavor and color. On this rainy day, I used a cast iron grill pan on my indoor stove, but it would be better outside, of course. I cut the kernels from the cobs and froze the cobs for making soup stock.

In a frying pan, I sizzled up some cumin seeds in oil, followed by onion and garlic. Corn, halved tomatoes, turmeric, red chile and salt went in the pan and came together quickly over high heat. You can never go wrong with fried corn.

A pork chop in the grill pan completed the meal.

Fig Chutney with Pecans and Mole Dulce

1 cup (packed) chopped ripe figs

1/3 cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon butter

Dash of salt

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder, available here

2 tablespoons pecans pieces

Soften the onion and garlic in butter. Add the figs and cook until softened, adding a tablespoon of water as needed to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt, vinegar and Mole Dulce. Finish with pecans.


Broiled figs in peach sauce and Plum almond cake


Hello, Amy here playing with the last of the summer fruits. My mom’s Black Mission Fig tree, planted by my grandfather so many years ago, yields two crops a year, early and late summer. The flowers open and are self pollinated inside the developing fruit. This baby fig tree had its first two fruits this year.


We mostly eat them fresh, the entire fruit with skin, seeds and all, leaving only the stem. They dry beautifully on screens outside, or in a hot car.


I wanted to do something special with the figs, so I consulted Sweet Simplicity: Jaques Pépin’s Fruit Desserts. Broil the figs!


I halved the fruit and decided that they were plenty sweet. If they weren’t, I would have sprinkled with sugar as suggested. After a few minutes under the broiler, they were even sweeter and the flavor concentrated, but still moist and easier to eat than dried.


Jacques made a sauce with strained peach preserves, but I had a few tiny fresh peaches from higher elevation southern Arizona.


I seeded and chopped the peaches, skins included. So much color, nutrition and fiber is in the skin. Plus I like varied textures.


The peaches simmered with a tiny bit of water for a few minutes, until soft.


I pureed the peaches and seasoned with a squeeze of lemon and a splash of rum.


That worked! So when someone gave me a handful of little plums, I immediately consulted the same book to show off the little treasures.


Here is my version of the Plum and Almond Cake

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup almonds

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons butter, softened

2 eggs

1/3 cup heavy cream


14 little plums

1/4 cup apricot jam

2 teaspoons hazelnut liqueur

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 inch or similar size baking dish. Grind almonds in a food processor until powdered. Add the rest of dry ingredients and process. Add the wet ingredients and pulse into a batter. Spread batter into prepared dish and nestle in the whole fruit. Bake for 55 minutes or until the cake is browned. Mix the jam and liqueur and brush on top of the cake. Warn the eaters of the pits and enjoy!

Fig Jam Ready for Farm to Table Picnic

Picking figs at the Mission Garden.

Picking figs at the Mission Garden operated by Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace.

The hottest weather of summer brings Tucson one of its sweetest treats, figs. The figs at the Mission Garden operated by Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace, are ripening  now. Some of the trees have already produced and are beginning to  grow their second crop. This is Carolyn today, and that is me picking figs from one of the trees in the lush recreated historic garden near the Santa Cruz River.  The plan was to preserve the figs as jam to be used as an ingredient in cookies  for the Farm to Table Picnic being organized by the  Mission Garden and Native Seeds/ SEARCH.  On the late afternoon of October 18, dinners will be able to picnic on Southern Arizona’s agricultural  bounty at tables  spread through the Garden. (Ticket detals next month).

The brown figs at Mission Garden are living relics of trees brought to Southern Arizona by Father Kino. They were grown from twigs cut from plants behind the Sosa-Carrillo House. Historic records show that those trees came from cuttings of trees at San Xavier Mission. The green figs were grown from cuttings taken from trees at the  settlements near the Ruby and Oro Blanco mines.

Plump figs from Mission Garden. The green ones are called "white" and some people think they are sweeter.

Plump figs from Mission Garden. The green ones are called “white” and some people think they are sweeter.

Generally in making jam the old-fashioned way without added commercial pectin, you measure an equal quantity of fruit and sugar and simmer until it is thick. Because these figs were incredibly sweet and because I plan to spread the jam over a base crust, I didn’t care if the jam set up like I would, say a plum or strawberry jam. So I thought it would be safe to use less sugar. Ultimately I used about 4 cups of sugar to 8 cups of chopped figs, about half the usual amount. Since I wanted a smooth product, I put the chopped figs through the blender.  I could have also used my food processor.

Blending the chopped figs for a smooth product.

Blending the chopped figs for a smooth product.

Next came the long slow cooking.  In the picture below, you can see the large pot on the left where I was boiling the storage  jars to sterilize them.

Cooking the jam.

Cooking the jam.

In any jam making, you need to simmer the fruit and sugar until it reaches about 220 degrees F. This takes both time and careful watching to get the jam to a point where it is not too runny and not too stiff.  In Tucson, because of our altitude, 218 degrees F usually gives a better product. Use too high a heat and the jam will burn on the bottom of the pot before it reaches the proper temperature.

To check the temperture,  I used to use a traditional candy thermometer that looks like this and works with a column of mercury:

Traditional candy thermometer.

Traditional candy thermometer.

A couple of Christmases ago, however Santa brought me a digital thermometer that is good for roasting a turkey, cooking a thick steak and making jam. It has a probe that sticks in whatever you are cooking and gives you a readout.   See the photo below. You can see this one has reached 212 degrees F. and the jam is almost done.:

Battery-operated digital cooking thermometer.

Battery-operated digital cooking thermometer. The thin silver wire on the right is a probe that rested in the jam.

Once finished, the jam just needed to be ladled into the prepared jars, capped and processed for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.  That’s a lot of jam, but I’ll be baking cookies for 200 ticket holders and a whole bunch of volunteers.

Five quarts of fig jam will wait until October to be made into fig bars for the Farm to Table Dinner.

Five quarts of fig jam will wait until October to be made into fig bars for the Farm to Table Dinner.

I can’t show you a picture of the fig bars, because I haven’t made them yet. But I have used this recipe previously and it is great. It is a modification of a recipe in Fruits of the Desert by the late food writer Sandal English.  If you have fresh figs and are looking for a way to showcase them, try this:

Layered Fig Bars

1 cup sifted flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup oatmeal, quick or old-fashioned

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

1-1/2 to 2 cups fig jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line an 8-inch square pan with foil or parchment paper, leaving some extending over two sides as flaps.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mix in the oatmeal and sugar. Stir in the melted butter and mix until crumbly. Firmly press 2/3 of the mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread fig jam evenly over the base layer. Top with remaining crumb mixture. Gently pat the top layer down. Bake in preheated overn for about 30 minutes. Cool, lift from the pan using the paper flaps, and cut into 24 bars.

Note: If you are making this for your family and don’t care that the bars come out perfectly shaped, you can skip the step of lining the pan.


Looking for ideas for how to use desert fruits and vegetables?  The Prickly Pear Cookbook has delicious recipes for both the fruit and pads and complete instructions for gathering and processing. Cooking the Wild Southwest gives directions for harvesting and cooking 23 easily gathered desert plants. Find both at the Native Seeds/SEARCH retail store on Campbell or at on-line sellers.