The simple Bijouxs of harnessing the summer sunshine in winter: Date, Fig and Balsamic Conserve. This rich, sweet-tart conserve is somewhere between a jam and a condiment, enhancing foods both the savory and sweet, a Bijouxs for the winter season.
It makes sense using dried fruits preserved by summer’s sunshine in winter, not a new idea but just perhaps a little forgotten. With just a small amount of effort and a bowl of humble looking dried fruits, a rich, savory sweet conserve quickly appears.
In simpler days, I experimented with preserving the bounty from my garden and discovered a book Preserving Today by Jeanne Lesem which used new, faster methods for preserving fruits and vegetables, and also utilizes smaller quantity techniques. When my garden’s summer bounty ended, I experimented with dried fruits as the base for the preserves with success. The Date Fig and Balsamic conserve is really a compilation of recipes, and adjustments here and there, with attributions noted on the recipe card.
As a LA native, most everyone has made the trip to Palm Springs and seen the beautiful groves of date trees (quickly vanishing) and the small roadside stands selling both dates and the ecth-Palm Springs sweet treat, the Date Shake: icy cold sweetness to be savored in the hot desert sun. This conserve uses dates for the sweet base, dried Mission Figs for texture, and balsamic vinegar and spices for tartness and depth.
The ingredients for the conserve are all easily found in most supermarkets, however the dried Mission Figs are usually secured in stores like Whole Foods (bulk food department) and sometimes at Trader Joes, health-food stores also tend to carry the dried figs. I am conscious of the limited access to many ingredients as stores continue to carry less and less on their shelves, and while writing and cooking the Bijouxs I keep in mind keeping it as simple as possible – if I have to drive to five markets for a recipe it’s not one I will feature.
Date, Fig and Balsamic Conserve pairs well with creamy cheeses, such as my favorite Humboldt Fog goat cheese, pictured here, or mascarpone, served with bread or crackers. Perhaps the conserve may serve as the “jelly” for a PBJ sandwich. This conserve could also be used as the filling for homemade fig newtons, or jam print cookies using shortbread cookie dough for the base. If you are looking to go savory, the conserve is a natural condiment alongside simple grilled pork chops.
I used wonderful Weck canning jars from Heath Ceramics (check out all the other beautiful products!) and garnered 18 small jars from this recipe that I gave as gifts this year at Christmas. You may properly ‘can’ the conserve, or simply place the cooled conserve in the refrigerator where is will keep for up to 3 weeks.
The Bijouxs kitchen/studio loves to welcome guests and these beautiful images are courtesy of a visit from photographer Bill Livingston. Isn’t that picture of the conserve on the wedge of goat cheese dreamy? It’s great to style the Bijouxs recipes with a pro like Bill – fabulous pictures – little jewels. More to come.
Date, Fig and Balsamic Conserve, a jewel from the summer sunshine to enjoy in winter.
As always, enjoy. B