Fig Mustard

I’ve been playing around with lots of pickles and preserves for the new cookbook, using favorite Persian vegetables and fruits. My latest creation is a fig mustard.

I never realized that Persians are so into preserving. There are all kinds of syrups, jams, and pickles that are staples of Persian cuisine, and they’re different from the ones I’m familiar with. Think sour cherry syrup, pickled dates with sumac, and rose petal jam.

From what I’ve seen and tasted, sugar isn’t used in Persian pickles, so they have a taste that is more pungent and bitter than the Western palate is used to. Persian pickles are hearty, like the classic torshi pickle made from vegetables, foreign spices like golpar and angelica, and vinegar. That’s it, absolutely no sweetener. On the other hand, Persian jams and preserves use just as much sugar as a typical American recipe.

This recipe falls somewhere in between, as it’s truly sweet and savory. The main ingredient is dried figs. Along with dates, figs are a popular Persian snack or dessert. I ate plenty of them growing up. (I also have a fig tree in my backyard in Brooklyn, along with many other houses on the block, planted by my Italian landlord’s family, so I get to taste them fresh every fall). I’m a mustard fiend, so when I came across this idea, I fell in love. Try the fig mustard with really good cheddar cheese and crackers. The cheese set off by the spicy sweetness of the spread is irresistible.

I’m still tweaking this recipe, so there are no exact quantities. Play around with these ingredients and you’re sure to create something delicious.

Fig Mustard

  • Mustard seeds or prepared Dijon mustard
  • Dried figs
  • Boiling water
  • Sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt

Sterilize glass canning jars or any glass container with boiling water and air dry.

Heat a skillet until very hot. Add the mustard seeds (if using) and toast for 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate to cool. Grind into a powder with a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle.

Place the figs in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add boiling water and cook, covered, until the figs are very soft, about 5 minutes.

Add mustard seeds or prepared mustard and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until the fig chunks are broken down, and the mixture is smooth (you’ll still have the tiny fig seeds that make the experience of eating figs so unique and sensuous). Put the figs back in the pot and add the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly and stir continuously until the sugar is dissolved. Salt to taste.

Remove from the heat and transfer to sterilized glass containers. Seal and store in the refrigerator indefinitely.

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