They are a real explosion of sweetness. Figs, originating from Asia Minor, have been a symbol of life and fertility since ancient times and were therefore linked to immortality and abundance.
In Ancient Greece, the fig tree was sacred to Athena, goddess of wisdom, and to Dionysus, god of wine and intoxication. Figs are harvested from early summer (early varieties) until early autumn. September is their peak month. Discover also why figs shouldn't be considered vegan.
How To Dry Figs
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We begin our fig-drying journey with a traditional method used in Southern Italy. There, figs are exposed to the sun and then boiled. In order for the preparation to succeed correctly, one must select the fruits that are firm, ripe and without imperfections.
It begins by gently washing the dried figs and dabbing them with a clean kitchen towel to remove excess water. They are cut in half lengthwise, taking care not to sever the ends completely (the two halves must remain joined). They are placed on a tray covered with baking paper (once the operation took place on wicker racks) and they are exposed to the sun, taking care to turn them two or three times a day. It will take between 2 and 7 days of exposure to be ready.
At night it will be better to take them home so they do not come into contact with the evening humidity. Take care to cover the figs with cheesecloth in order to protect them from any flies, insects or external agents. The figs will be ready when dark and withered.
At this point you can fill each pair of figs with half a walnut, an almond or a candied citron peel, close it and bake at 180 degrees for about 10-15 minutes until browned. To make them even softer and more delectable, you can brush them with a syrup of water and sugar before putting them in the oven so they will further caramelise.
The Boiling Method
This 'grandmother' method is still used a lot. Take dried whole figs, rinse gently and pat with a clean cloth to dry them. Place them in the sun to dry, taking care to collect them at night. Place them in a pot of boiling water, quickly blanch them, drain and dry with a cloth. Expose in the sun once again until they become dry and weathered.
In the oven
The figs are left to dry in the oven at the lowest temperature (if possible 30 degrees). Cut the figs in half (but without completely dividing the fruit) and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Keep the oven door ajar to allow moisture to escape. It will take 3 to 6 hours, taking care to turn and check that they do not burn.
How to store dried figs
To ensure proper conservation it is important that the water inside the figs disappears completely. Once you are sure that the figs are well dried, you can keep them in glass jars with an airtight seal. An ancient method, is to store them in glass jars interspersing them with some bay leaves. The closure in vacuum bags is a great choice that will prolong the fragrance and flavour of your creation. Learn also how to store chestnuts or parmesan cheese.
Properties of dried figs
A fruit with a reconstituting and invigorating power due to its strong sugary component. The fig contains mineral salts (potassium, calcium, iron), vitamins and sugars. Thanks to its antioxidant properties, it is an ally in the convalescent phases and seasonal changes, when a boost of energy is needed.
It also has a natural laxative function thanks to the presence of fibre, especially when it comes to the dry fruit. And thanks to the content of calcium and iron, it is recommended in cases of anaemia, fatigue or weakness. In short, an excellent snack although one that shouldn't be eaten in excess: no more than three dried figs are recommended a day.
Being a sweet fruit, figs are undoubtedly full of calories, especially if they have been dried. With the drying, in fact, the fig tree loses 3 quarters of the water and acquires a sugar content of 5 times higher than the fresh fruit. It also increases the fibre content, which increases its laxative virtues. The dried fig is rich in sugars and its caloric intake is 250 calories per 100 grams. This is why it is often eaten during the cold season. The fresh fig, on the other hand, has a caloric content of about 50 calories per 100 grams.
Recipes with dried figs
There are many recipes with figs or dried figs that can make your palate happy. Here are some examples:
sweet sandwiches with dried figs
Sicilian buccellati, a pastry with a rich filling made with dried figs
biscuits stuffed with dried figs
Ia cudduredda di fig (donut with figs), a typical Sicilian dessert
Plum cake with dried figs
Strudel with dried figs and walnuts
A good winter recipe is a mix of cooked fruit - apple, pears ,and a pinch of cinnamon - sweetened by two or three dried figs.
Figs in the shape of a cross are an ancient Calabrian recipe, from the city of Cosenza in particular, which is handed down from generation to generation. These are dried figs stuffed with almonds, walnuts, candied and braided peel, to the point of looking like a cross. The crosses were then brushed with a syrup of water and sugar. Alternatively, they were sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, sprinkled with anise liqueur and placed in the oven to brown.