The transition from summer to fall is a weird time. Peaches and corn have just peaked but are quickly waning in quality, tomatoes and melons are hanging on for dear life and plums are just starting to hit their stride. It’s not quite time to crank up the oven for apple and pumpkin pies, but my stovetop is bubbling with pots of pure purple Concord grape goo and inky blackberry mush for jams and sorbet. And then the figs come in.
The late summer fig crop is outstandingly sweet and sticky (as opposed to the first fruiting, in late spring, which is lower in sugar and lacks the jammy, X-rated quality of a good September fig). It is also incredibly fleeting, often lasting less than a month. And it’s hard to improve upon a perfect raw fig, eaten straight up with salty cheese and charcuterie. But you’re always going to have a few in each little basket that aren’t literally oozing with figgy nectar, and if you have access to large quantities, you’re going to need to use them up fast.
So I came up with an easy, versatile way to use any underripe/extra figs you may end up with: Caramel Whiskey-Poached Figs. Stick to black mission or brown turkey figs and use a cheap but drinkable whiskey – you don’t want to waste good Scotch or rare batches of bourbon – but don’t use high octane rotgut, either. I used Medley Brothers, which is the rail whiskey at work.
I served the figs on top of a marmalade poppyseed cake with black tea gelato, but they’d be fantastic just as a topping to vanilla or coffee ice cream, on toasted country bread spread with fresh ricotta, spooned over cheesecake, on top of waffles, soaking into a simple chocolate bundt cake or as the sweet component to an old fashioned.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 cup hot water, divided
- 1/4 cup whiskey
- 1 lb figs, stemmed and quartered
Place sugar, salt and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until lightly caramelized, about the color of honey. Gently swirl off the heat until the caramel is almost the color of maple syrup, then slowly and carefully add the rest of the water. Add the whiskey and place over medium-low heat, then add the figs and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally until figs are cooked through. Allow to cool slightly before using or storing. The figs are best slightly warm or at room temperature.