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Video:How to Use Figs

with Elizabeth LaBau

When cooking with figs, there are a lot of types to consider and a lot of information to understand. Here's a brief guide to buying, storing and using all types of figs, from fresh to dried to canned.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Use Figs

Buying Fresh Figs

When dealing with fresh figs, the most important thing to know is that they don't ripen very well once they're picked, so you want to be sure to select figs that are already ripe. A ripe fig will be soft to the touch, not firm or hard. It should yield to gentle pressure—if it doesn't, it isn't ripe enough. But it should not be mushy—that means it is overripe. If you have a soft fig, smell it—if it has a fermented, alcoholic odor, it is past its prime and not good for eating. You want to look for figs with smooth skin and intact stems, and avoid any that look damaged, green, or bruised.

Storing and Using Fresh Figs

Once you buy them, the countdown is on to use them before they go bad. It is important to keep them cold to lengthen their shelf life. Either use them immediately, or wrap them in a plastic bag to store them in your refrigerator. To prepare fresh figs, all you really need to do is wash them in cool water. All parts of the fig are edible except for the stem itself, so to eat them whole all you need to do is remove the stem. To use them in recipes, cut them in half or in quarters with a sharp paring knife. They can also be frozen in an airtight plastic bag, either whole or cut in half, for up to twelve months. Fresh figs can be used in many baking recipes where you would use other fruits like peaches, nectarines, or plums. They make a wonderful addition to muffins, quick-breads, or, cobblers. They're also good in savory preparations, like salads, as they mix well with goat cheese, olives, and ham.

Using Dried Figs

Dried figs are figs that have been dehydrated, and they're great because they can be stored much longer than fresh figs. They should be stored in an airtight container--either at room temperature for several months, or in the refrigerator for up to a year. They can be used interchangeably in recipes that call for other dried fruits, like dried apricots or prunes. You can use them in baked goods, in trail mix, or as a topper on hot or cold breakfast cereals. If your dried figs feel too hard, you can rehydrate them by pouring very hot water on top of them and letting them soak for a few minutes before using them.

Using Canned Figs

Canned figs, also known as preserved figs, are fresh figs packed in jars in a fragrant fig syrup. They are very sweet, with a soft and chewy texture. You can keep canned figs for up to a year in the pantry, and once the jar is opened, store them in the refrigerator. Canned figs are great to cook with—try them on pizza, in muffins, or on baked brie. One way to make a quick dessert is to place canned figs in the bottom of a tart shell and put a crumble topping on top. It's super easy, but the flavor and the texture of the figs make the tart truly special. These are just a few ways to enjoy the many different types of figs that are available.
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