Margaret Mathisson recently e-mailed asking if anyone here had
suggestions for helping her preserve her bumper crop of Desert King
figs. I’d recently run across a few blogs with suggestions for
preserving figs and offered them to her, but those recipes talked
about other more flavorful brown varieties, such as Mission figs
which can be sweeter and have caramel notes. Desert King, though
less flavorful, is a hardier fig variety that apparently grows well
in the Pacific Northwest, as I learned from a Chris
Have any of you had experience with them? Can you help Margaret
out with some suggestions? If you comment, I’ll make sure she gets
Chris Smith, by the way, suggested sticking quartered fruits in
a dehydrator for use later, though he also included in his
column a savory recipe for using them up right away.
Here are a couple recipes I found in case any of you are
interested or have suggestions for safely altering them to fit with
And just for the heck of it, here’s a link to
Saveur’s fig recipe page, which has a few preserve recipes and
a lot of appetizer and desert recipes for fresh figs. (By the way,
I’m writing this before I’ve cooked dinner and the photos are,
frankly, a rather cruel taunt to my rumbling tummy.)
For those of you who aren’t blessed with a giant fig tree and
want to try some recipes out, I have seen several varieties for
sale at Central Market recently, though they’re about to go out of
If you walked past the rows of pickles and peaches, beans, jams
and other canned goods affixed with little blue, red and black
ribbons at the Kitsap County Fair, think of this: How would all of
these cans look in 50 years?
The first image that came to my head was of fruits so
disintegrated they became mere goo and pickles left discolored and
Then, after meeting with Kevin Masters, all those images faded
away when he showed me the beans below. Before you scroll too far,
take a guess at how old they are (come on, no cheating,
though there’s no real punishment if you do).
Since I mentioned 50 years earlier, is that what you guessed?
Wrong! Try 81.
Masters’ grandmother, Josephine Cameron (maiden name Kuntz),
grew up in Silverdale in the days when the area was full of farms
and chickens. She used to candle eggs, holding a light behind them
to check for forming chicks. And as many women of her generation
did, she canned.
She canned a variety of things from vegetables grown in her
garden to tuna fish and a plum sauce that “was sweet and tasty and
had a little tang to it,” unlike the oversweetened options in
modern grocery stories, Masters said. That plum sauce was his
favorite. He used to bring emptied jars of preserved food and trade
her for filled ones.
She entered her goods in the Kitsap County Fair for years until
she started judging the contests.
“I guess when you know everything, that’s when you start
judging,” Masters said.
But Kitsap’s wasn’t the only fair she entered.
In 1929 the Western Washington Fair in Puyallup had been going
strong for 29 years. That year, Arabian horses, photographs of New
York and Romanian peasant costumes were among the things to see.
Members of the Wynoochee Valley grange had
carefully arranged fruits and vegetables in tiered rows and in
boxes and set before a fan of gathered grains, on their way to a
first prize grange exhibit.
And Josephine Cameron prepared a can of long, thin green beans,
which she probably grew Masters said. They won a blue ribbon.
Masters wasn’t sure what recipe she used, and any food safety
expert will tell you that as pretty as they still are, they
definitely should not be taste-tested at this point. But even years
after her death – she died in 1993 – when Masters talks about that
jar and his grandmother her memory seemed just as well-preserved as
those green beans.
Masters used to have the beans displayed on a shelf in his home,
with accompanying cans of yellow wax beans and less-colorful
cherries. But he’s since moved them to a more protected place, to
preserve the color.