Southerners love to brandy peaches, pears, strawberries, and Lord knows what other fruits, but never have I been so impressed as I was by the brandied figs that Louis Osteen serves on slices of corn cake with buttermilk ice cream at his restaurant on Pawleys Island, South Carolina. The most popular fig in the South is the pear-shaped Celeste (or “sugar fig”), with purple skin and pink flesh, but the more widely available Black Missions and Kadotas (available from June to September) work just as well in this recipe. I don’t like to can these figs, since they become too soft and mushy with age.
In a large saucepan, combine the water, brandy, and sugar and bring to a simmer. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and add both the pod and the seeds to the saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick and clove, stir well, and simmer till the mixture has reduced to a thin syrup, about 45 minutes. Remove and discard the vanilla pod, cinnamon stick, and clove. Add the figs to the syrup, remove the pan from the heat, and let cool to room temperature. Tightly covered, the figs keep about a week in the refrigerator.
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