Baby Fig Spoon Sweet (Sikalaki Gliko)
Mama makes her traditional recipes from memory, but when memory needs a little boost, she hauls out her battered old copy of Megali Mageiriki. The classic Greek cookbook, it’s very 1950’s, complete with faded photos of fancy but unappetizing-looking food. Remember those old Betty Crocker cookbooks? It’s like that. Nevertheless, it has great recipes, probably because traditional Greek cooking predates the fifties by a few centuries or so.
With Zoe’s help, I’ve translated a recipe for candied baby figs from Megali Mageiriki . It uses unripe figs, and the great thing about unripe figs is that the birds won’t have eaten them before you can pick them. Once the figs on the tree are ripe, they’re pretty much lost to me, but (ha-ha!) now I can outwit the birds. Sort of.
The recipe didn’t specify what size the unripe figs should be, so I picked a variety of sizes, as you can see below.
The large one on the left is a full-grown fig that just hasn’t ripened yet. Frankly, the figs of this size turned out nasty and I threw them away. All the others turned out great. My favorites are the medium sized ones shown in the center. I like them because they’ve started to make seeds, and the seeds add a pleasantly contrasting crunch to an otherwise soft consistency.
2 pounds unripe figs
3 pounds sugar
3 cups water
lemon juice (a couple of tablespoons)
cloves and/or vanilla (just guess!)
Rinse the figs and poke a hole in each fig with a thick nail. This step will be a bit messy from the sticky latex oozing out of the figs.
I do actually know the difference between a nail and a screwdriver. I found that a small phillips screwdriver works just as well and is easier to handle.
Okay, once you’re done poking the figs, put them in water and let them soak for a few hours.
Next, boil the figs in plain water for 15 minutes.
When the 15 minutes are done, put the figs into cold water, then when they’re cool, drain them.
Dump the old water out of your cookpot, and and replace it with fresh water. Repeat the sequence of boiling the figs for 15 minutes, putting them in cold water until they’re cool, and then draining them.
Boil the 3 pounds of sugar with the 3 cups of water for about 5 minutes, then add the figs.
Boil the figs in the syrup for 15 minutes, then turn the heat off.
Leave the figs in the syrup for 12 hours.
Remove the figs from the syrup and boil the syrup until it is thick.
Put the figs back in, along with the lemon juice, cloves, and vanilla.
Boil a few more minutes until the syrup is again well-thickened.
Put into clean jars and store.
Warning! The pot and colander you use will end up with sticky little smears of latex all over them. I had to scrub it off with scouring powder. I tend to think the latex would even defeat nonstick cookware and would be very difficult to remove without abrasives, so I suggest sticking with cookware that you can give a good scrubbing to.