Tis the season for figs, and we’ve been enjoying them freshly picked when they’re at their best. But they don’t last for more than a couple of days in that condition, and we decided to dry a batch in the sunshine – the natural way. We’d successfully produced a nice little jar of sun-dried tomatoes, so this must be pretty much the same process, right? Ah, well not quite. It all took much longer and we had to fend off insects!
Starting with our bowl of fresh figs, we spread them out on a foil-lined tray, to increase the effect of the sun. I later heard that it’s a good idea to boil the figs briefly in water & lemon juice first, to soften the skin and shorten the drying time.
We put the tray on our terrace, in the full sunshine, where it rapidly started to attract a line of ants from two floors down! Our neighbours must consider that a normal part of the process, and the traditional method is simply to spread out the fruit on the surface of a flat roof. For ourselves, we ended up with our tray of figs balanced on 4 glasses standing in a tray of water to deter the foraging army!
Figs do take several days to dry, and need to be turned to give each side a chance in the sun. We took them in at night, and whenever a rainstorm threatened. Otherwise, they sat there for about a week.
Now, the next part in our process comes from the very inspirational Dalmatian chef Čedo Kovačević. Take the dried figs and steam them for 7 minutes.
After that, immediately spread them on a tray and put into a hot oven for 2 minutes to dry.
Now, imagine if you will the fragrance of warm baked figs as we took them out of the oven, and let them cool. We absolutely had to do a quick taste test, and they were so delicious with a slightly crispy skin!
This prepares the figs for other recipes, such as fig cake, or smokvenjak as it’s called here. For that we’re going to need some sun-dried plums and nuts. Sounds wonderful, and plums are also in season right now, so it’s off down to the market. Meanwhile, our figs need to be stored away before they all get eaten!
Čedo’s blog: Balancana: Dalmacija moja inspiracija