French Fig Jam

Jam has become such an industrial, mass-produced product that it might be hard to imagine making it at home. This is not the case in France–or much of Europe, for that matter. When I visited my friend on her farm in Burgundy, we drove around for hours only to discover that all of the stores were out of preserving supplies. We ended up ordering a case of jars from an online shop, because the figs were ripening fast.

My friend follows a recipe that has been in her family for several generations. We cut figs into quarters and weigh them to determine the amount of sugar. It’s 2 parts fruit to 1 part sugar. Figs are sweet, so we add lemon juice. As their juices melt into sugar, the syrup becomes pink, then purple, then burgundy, like the famous wines of the region. The green perfume of figs transforms as they cook. The fragrance of natural coumarin in their peel, the aromatic that smells of toasted almonds and cherries, becomes more pronounced and richer. The lemon zest gives the fig jam a twist reminiscent of Shalimar.

Homemade jam is so much better than even the artisanal brands that I can’t recommend making it highly enough. I’ve already posted several jam recipes, and as I mentioned previously, make a small amount and see what I mean about perfume and taste. Back in Brussels, for instance, I only have access to expensive, imported figs, so I make only a jar or two of jam. Yet, it’s such a sumptuous treat with cheese, bread or yogurt that it’s worth the effort.

The effort, at any rate, is not extensive, since you can break up the work. You macerate figs with sugar and lemon juice in the evening, bring the mixture to a boil in the morning, and then the next day, bring it to a final boil and it’s done. Autumn has been bottled.

Confiture de Figues à l’Ancienne

You can use any type of fig you want for this recipe. Black figs make for a beautiful burgundy jam, while yellow ones cook down to a warm beige hue. Some recipe call for removing the lemon peel once the jam is cooked, but I like its sharp flavor, so I leave it in.

Of course, this jam can be canned and stored in your pantry, but since I make only a jar or two, I keep it in the fridge.

500g (1lb) fresh figs
250g (1 1/4 c) granulated white sugar
1 lemon

Squeeze juice out of the lemon. Remove the yellow zest in strips from one half.

Wash the figs, dry thoroughly and remove the hard stems. Cut into quarters. Cover with sugar, add lemon zest and juice and leave to macerate overnight. Bring the mixture to a boil the next morning over low heat and once the sugar starts dissolving stir gently with a wooden spoon to encourage the rest of the sugar to dissolve. Remove from the heat and leave till the evening or the next day. (Once the mixture is cool, you can cover the pan).

The next day, bring the mixture to boil once again and simmer it over low heat till the fig quarters begin to look translucent and the syrup thickens. (To test the thickness, pour a drop of syrup on a plate and see if it forms a wrinkle when you touch it with your finger. It occurs at 220F/105C.) It should take around 10 minutes, but the time depends on the water content of your fruit. Remove jam from the heat, remove the lemon peel, if you wish, transfer into clean jars and once it cools down, store in the fridge. (Or you can look for the canning instructions online.) Refrigerated, the jam will keep for 5-6 months.

I prepare the jars by washing them with baking soda, drying and then heating them in the oven at low temperature (225F/130C) for 20-30 min.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Muriel: Thank you Victoria for this recipe! I don’t know in which area of Brussels you are living, but I am in Etterbeek and at The Barn (Place St-Pierre) they have some really nice figs right now! Your post makes me want to go and buy some… maybe tomorrow? October 19, 2018 at 7:16am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you. I’ve never been to the Barn, but I’ll definitely check it out. October 22, 2018 at 10:31am Reply

      • Muriel: Hey Victoria, so I went and bought some figs and followed your recipe and while it was cooking, the wonderful smell made me think of something I’d read in school. It’s taken from Fables de Mon Jardin by Georges Duhamel, and it is all about the smell of the jams : “Ici, monsieur, lui dis-je, nous faisons nos confitures uniquement pour le parfum. Le reste n’a pas d’importance. Quand les confitures sont faites, eh bien! Monsieur, nous les jetons.

        J’ai dit cela dans un grand mouvement lyrique et pour éblouir le savant. Ce n’est pas tout à fait vrai. Nous mangeons nos confitures, en souvenir de leur parfum.”

        Isn’t that so true ? October 23, 2018 at 10:15am Reply

        • Bella Ciao: That would be me:)- I love making jam but do not like it so much afterwards:)- October 24, 2018 at 5:45am Reply

        • Victoria: So true! And so evocative. Thank you very much. October 25, 2018 at 2:39am Reply

        • Victoria: And I hope that you liked the jam. And its perfume. October 25, 2018 at 2:43am Reply

  • Martine: It looks pretty. I’ve never tried fig jam, only fig newtons. 🙂 October 19, 2018 at 9:01am Reply

    • Victoria: I like figs in all forms! October 22, 2018 at 10:31am Reply

  • Gabriela: I love figs, we have wonderful ones here in Spain. Thank you for the recipe! I will make some but with coconut sugar. October 19, 2018 at 9:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Coconut sugar has too strong of a taste for figs, and I don’t advise substituting it, unless you’re an experienced jam maker. The proportions of fruit and sugar would have to be altered, if you’re using a different type of sweetener. October 22, 2018 at 10:34am Reply

      • Gabriela: Hum… you’re right, I didn’t think about that. Thanks Victoria! October 22, 2018 at 4:26pm Reply

  • Annie: I can imagine how delicious it must be. I need to check if any stores around here have figs. October 19, 2018 at 10:41am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s simple, but very good. October 22, 2018 at 10:34am Reply

  • Joy Erickson: I always make my own preserves. The store bought can be so disappointing. I make strawberry-rhubarb, apricot, peach, and sour cherry. I seem to give away more than I use. Each jar tastes so much better than from a store. I can adjust the sugar and add things such as lemon, orange, and chopped nuts.
    I still have the recipe for rose petal jam that you published a few years ago. Now I can add this beautiful fig jam. Thank you, Victoria. October 19, 2018 at 10:41am Reply

    • Victoria: A neighbor gave me a new rose jam recipe to try, which included roses and strawberries. I’m saving it for next year. October 22, 2018 at 10:35am Reply

  • Brenda: Hello ~ Though I don’t preserve anymore, I have the fondest memories of glancing over to see my rows of cooling jams and jellies…& hearing the reassuring ‘pops’ as their caps adhere. Plum and grape jellies…peach and raspberry jams…and, yes, a more appreciated hostess gift there isn’t! I handed all of my supplies to someone else to take up the cause.
    Be it paired with scones, tea biscuits, or simple buttered toast…homemade preserves warm the heart. Thank you for the lovely post… October 19, 2018 at 12:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t make jam in large quantities anymore, unless I’m cooking with my grandmother. But a jar or two to store in the fridge is a must. Apricot in the summer, figs and quince in the fall, bitter oranges in December. October 22, 2018 at 10:36am Reply

      • Bella Ciao: Would you mind posting a quince recipe? We got about 15kg from our neighbour’s tree and have been busy with them for the last 10 days. The fig recipe is excellent by the way! Thank you so much for it! I will try it next year with the addition of mustard oil as a last step, to make mostarda. October 24, 2018 at 5:48am Reply

        • Victoria: If you have that much quince, then make cotognata (or its French version, cotignac), quince paste that’s perfect to have with cheese. Elizabeth David has the best recipe. October 25, 2018 at 2:53am Reply

  • Sandra: Thank you!!! I will try my hand at this October 19, 2018 at 1:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: Please let me know how it goes! October 22, 2018 at 10:36am Reply

  • Toni Kennington: Delicious fig jam! Your recipe seems very easy. I too love the taste of homemade jam. I made orange marmalade at Christmas to give as gifts, but always kept a few for myself. My favorite though is ginger jam. It is hard to find here. Do you have an equally simple recipe? October 19, 2018 at 1:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve never made it before. I imagine that you can use a similar process, except that ginger needs to be boiled in water first and then this water is used to make syrup. It’s a more involved jam, though, since ginger is fibery. October 22, 2018 at 10:37am Reply

  • Andy: Figs are just about my favorite thing to eat or cook with, period, so this is right up my alley. I planted a fig tree two years ago, but it hasn’t generated enough of its gorgeous purple fruit for jam, yet. I’ve just started reading Christine Ferber’s Mes Confitures, and it is truly inspiring. If I can get my hands on violet flavoring (as called for in the recipe), I can’t wait to try her popular raspberry-violet jam next season.

    This year, I picked and canned raspberry, blackberry, concord grape, and peach jams. As the blackberry jam was cooking, the whole house was filled with this diffusive musky smell, with a pronounced buttery pineapple nuance. I was immediately reminded of Mûre et Musc. I hadn’t realized that the pairing of musk with blackberry was in any way reflective of any natural muskiness in the fruit. I only perceive this musky scent in the cooked blackberry, though. October 19, 2018 at 4:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: I like Christine Ferber’s book, and I’ve made a few recipes from it. Her banana-chocolate jam is heavenly. I was curious about her violet-raspberry jam, but when I finally bought a jar, I was disappointed. The taste of apple pectin was too strong. October 22, 2018 at 10:39am Reply

      • Andy: How disappointing indeed! I did notice that Ferber likes to use a stock apple jam for pectin in her recipes, but I’m not personally familiar with this type of product. My own raspberry jam didn’t need any pectin to set perfectly, so perhaps I’d be better to experiment with a twinge of violet in a couple jars of my own recipe next year. Just to see how I like it. October 22, 2018 at 3:18pm Reply

        • Victoria: I tried her technique, and if you use fresh, green apples, the result is subtle. The jam sets, but the taste is mild, letting whatever other fruit you use shine through. I suppose that for a commercial version you’re obligated to cook it longer or perhaps use a ready-made product. October 23, 2018 at 4:22am Reply

          • Andy: I’ve never had pineapple jam, and hers uses this method with green apples. I think that’s the one I’ll try, or maybe the one with pineapple, mango, and banana. It’s hard to choose. October 23, 2018 at 1:07pm Reply

            • Victoria: Pineapple and green apples does sound interesting, but the mixture of three fruits is the one I’d love to try. October 25, 2018 at 2:44am Reply

  • Firouzeh: Inspired to run out and make. Thank you Victoria October 19, 2018 at 4:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that you like it! October 22, 2018 at 10:39am Reply

  • Aurora: Thank you so much for what looks like an excellent and simple recipe. I am going to make jam next weekend, if I find figs, otherwise I’ll use other fruits – I am especially impressed with the idea of macerating overnight, it seems like such a great tip. October 24, 2018 at 12:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: It makes the sugar penetrate the fruit, so the pieces will be translucent and evenly cooked. The same technique works with all soft fruit and berries. October 25, 2018 at 2:55am Reply

  • David: Beautiful. We vacation each year on a tiny island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and they have a fig festival every year to celebrate one of the ubiquitous trees on the island (along with ancient oaks and coastal cedars). Several islanders sell their own, home-cooked fig preserves, and we’ve tasted our way through most. They’re delicious in the island fig cakes, but really sing, warmed gently and spooned over the best vanilla ice cream you can find. There was a great article in the Daily Beast about figs and Ocracoke: November 5, 2018 at 11:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for the link to this fun article. I’d love to visit the island. November 6, 2018 at 5:29am Reply

  • John McKenzie: I have been making jams,jellies and chutneys for years following family recipes that have been passed down the generations .I have made all the usual jams using the finest Scottish soft fruits..This is the first time I have made fig jam it is superb. Thank you so much for your recipe. I made a little change to the recipe which was to sprinkle some frozen lavender flowers onto the jars of jam then I gave it a little stir hopefully the flowers will infuse their delicate perfume into the figs September 8, 2019 at 9:35am Reply

    • Victoria: Figs and lavender would be a great combination. Thank you in turn for an idea and an inspiration. September 8, 2019 at 9:55am Reply

  • Muriel: Every year, for the past 3 years, I turn back to this page and prepare this yummy jam and think about you Victoria and everything you teach us week after week! So tonight, while the figs are macerating, I want to thank you for sharing this post an recipe with us!
    Lots of love! October 24, 2021 at 3:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much for your kind words! This made my morning. 🙂
      I made a batch of this jam last week, since we still have delicious, ripe figs. October 25, 2021 at 12:59am Reply

  • Angela M Gadbois: This is absolutely the best fig jam I’ve ever tasted. I cut the lemon peels in half after cooking and put a piece on top of the jam in each jar. It looked so lovely. They’re in small jars, going into the freezer for holiday gifts. August 24, 2023 at 11:39am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so glad to hear it. I also like this recipe and its combination of flavors. You’ve prepared lovely holiday gifts! August 24, 2023 at 11:44am Reply

What do you think?

Latest Comments

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2024 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy