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Sep
20

Fresh Fig Pie: Bye-Bye, Summer, and Welcome, Fall
I love figs in every form: Fresh and dried, in preserves, in jam, and in chutney. I even love the figgy filling in those classic squared-up cookies that showed up in my elementary school lunch box, tucked in among the celery sticks, apple wedges, and my peanut butter & jelly sandwich on very soft, flavor-free white bread.

Figs thrive throughout the American South We love eating them ripe and sun-warmed from the tree in summertime. What’s left after we and the birds have all had our often goes into jams and whole fig preserves, either of which can be the foundation for Ocracoke Isalnd Fig Cake with Buttermilk Glaze. Most common where I live in Piedmont North Carolina are brown turkey figs, petite and sweet and in love with high summertime heat.

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For my pie I used mission figs, gorgeously colored purple, blue, brown, and black. Purchased at a local supermarket. these black mission figs range in size from petite teardrops to luscious baubles you will find it difficult not to eat before filling your pie.

Get a good supply, more than you need for your pie, so you can enjoy them as is, or with a little goat cheese or herbed cheese, or drizzled with honey and paired with walnuts or pecans. Finger food! Don’t worry if you find different varieties of figs — any fresh ripe figs will work fine.

Traditionally, Southern baking recipes have called for preserved figs or fig jam as the source for fig cakes and other fig treats. My guess is that during the hottest days of summer and early fall when figs are ripening, home cooks were quite busy enough with the home garden, canning, preserving, and cooking and eating out of the garden. No need to come up with extra ways to use fresh figs when eating them up or preserving them for the colder months took care of the supply.

I love fig cake, and was surprised to learn in researching my cookbook Southern Cakes, that it is made with fig preserves or fig jam, rather than fresh figs. I fig-ured (sorry, could not resist) that a classic fruit pie with some sugar for sweetness and juiciness and some flour to thicken it would come out wonderfully, and indeed it does. I made one and posted about it HERE a few years back. It’s wonderful and simple to make, with the beauty of ripe figs to enjoy as you put it together.

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Mission figs, trimmed of their little stems and halved or very coarsely chopped. They cook down nicely so big chunks are fine.

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Rolled out and ready for the good stuff!

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Figs gently tossed with sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt, added to the piecrust and dotted with butter. I love that term: Dot with Butter. Old-timey recipe words.

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Checking to see if this fresh fig pie is done….and it is!

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You can see my highly decorative “F” poked into the crust, but you may not know what it is, since a little fountain of delicious syrup flowed up and out above it. That is not a problem, that is a blessing!

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The crust is nicely done, and I adore the filling oozing out of the piecrust, with the tiny fig seeds on display. Because I have a gas oven rather than an electric one, baked and roasted foods don’t brown quite as much as I would like. When I think of it and have time, I often glaze my pie crusts with jam, a pro-tip I learned working at a wholesale bakery once upon a time. Warm up some apricot jam or peach jam, thinned with a little water, and brush all over the piecrust using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon. Below is my glazed pie.

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No surprise to say that vanilla ice cream or whipped cream go wonderfully with any pie.

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This recipe makes a thick filling, without an excess of juice. It may be the nature and texture of figs, as compared to peaches and berries. It’s more like an apple pie, with the filling content to stay inside the crust, slicing almost like a cake. I may play with this and add less flour or some juice to see if I could get things a little bit saucier. Gooey is the word I am looking for here. Do you see what I’m up to here?  I am dreaming up excuses to make another fresh fig pie!

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Nancie’s Fresh Fig Pie

Fresh figs and a piecrust are about all you need for this satisfying pie. I think combinations of fruit would be wonderful. If you come up with one, let me know. I’m thinking figs and peaches; or pears; or apples; or bananas…..

MAKES 1 PIE

Pastry for a double-crust pie

1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups very coarsely chopped fresh ripe figs ( 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)

2 tablespoons lemon juice, or cider vinegar or white vinegar

2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into bits

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt, and stir with a fork to mix well. In a medium bowl, combine the figs and the sugar-flour mixture, and toss gently to mix them evenly. Pour the figs into the piecrust, and mound them up toward the center in to a little pile. Pour lemon juice over the figs, and dot with the bits of butter.

Cover with the top crust and press the sides together to seal them well. Trim and fold the edges under firmly; then crimp to seal the pie, or press the edges down with the tines of a fork to seal them and make a pretty design. Use a fork or a knife to make steam vents so that steam and juicy filling can escape as the pie cooks.

Place in the 400 degree F oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until the filling is thick and juicy and bubbling out around the top of the pie, and until the crust is golden brown, 40 to 50 minutes. *Transfer to a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Note:

If you’d like to give your piecrust a handsome brown sheen, you can brush it lightly all over with apricot or peach jam. Still warm pie is the easiest, but room temperature pie will work nicely too. In a very small saucepan or a small microwave safe bowl, combine 1/3 cup of jam with 2 tablespoons of water. Heat gently, on the stove or in the microwave, until the jam softens and stir well to incorporate the water. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the pastry crust with an even layer of thinned jam. It should be a little shiny and lightly, pleasingly colored.

cover-southern-piesFor more of my pie recipes, check out my Southern Pies cookbook.

About the Author
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of ten cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native,and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.

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