Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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On the Road: Fig Preserves on Ocracoke – the Outer Banks

July 27th, 2010 · 2 Comments

OCRACOKE, N.C. – Today I’m on a mission to go find the lady I met a couple of years back (hoping she’s still with us) and buy some of her fig preserves.

An Ocracoke native, she had one of the biggest, fullest fig trees I’d ever seen last time I was here. She put up and sold jars of fig preserves, the old-fashioned syrupy kind, out of a shed in her back yard.

Oddly, my good foodie/Southern friend Ben Starling and I were just discussing fig preserves just before I left on this trip. We were lamenting the fact that we can’t find the dark kind of fig preserves – the ones that are packed in heavy, thick syrup, ones like my mom and Aunt Eleanor put up every year. We agreed we don’t cotton to that thin kind you find commercially.

Figs for breakfast and supper

They resemble the ones in the photo I found from McDonald’s Farm. (McDonald’s is a fruit farm in Baskin, La. — apparently with no web site — where they know a thing about figs, too. Chef Paul Prudhomme’s sister makes a cake from the preserves; her recipe is one I have dogeared from use. It’s in one of his cookbooks.)

Mostly, though, I believe fig preserves are made for one thing and one thing only: hot buttermilk biscuits. Poking a hole in the crispy top of the biscuit and filling its tender inside with a fig and its syrup is a ritual I have repeated countless times as a girl.

Licking the syrup that leaks out the sides from my fingers, swabbing up the last of the syrup on the plate with the last bite of biscuit…then wistfully looking at the empty biscuit plate and wishing I hadn’t been so polite to take only one. This is a direct brain-to-mouth memory.

You can see why it’s a mission to find these once more. I’ve been in fig withdrawal for over a decade, when I finished the last of mom’s fig and pear preserves. I’ll let you know how I fare, so check back.

Meanwhile, here’s the Ocracoke Island Fig Cake recipe, from the Ocracoke Cookbook.

Ocracoke Island Fig Cake

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 1⁄2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup fig preserves, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts)

Beat eggs; add sugar and oil. After sifting dry ingredients, add to egg mixture alternately with buttermilk. Add vanilla and fold in figs and nuts.

Pour into greased 13-by-9-inch pan or bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or in a well greased tube pan at 350 degrees just a little longer. If you use a cake tester, it may read sticky if you draw through a fig, so look instead for signs of wet batter.

*Chopped dates may be substituted for figs, but I wouldn’t.

Tags: Baking: Cheap therapy · Off Road · Recipes: What's Cooking!

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Patty // Jul 27, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Thanks so much for this recipe – I am going to convert it to gluten free! I love fig perserves – I recently bought some when I visited the market in Grand Central Station in NYC. It is great when melted and put on brie!

    Have a great trip!


  • 2 Jan Norris // Jul 27, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Ah: when you do convert it, send me the recipe and I’ll share it with my readers, as well! Thanks much!

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