Monday, September 12, 2011

Homemade Fig Honey- Fig Syrup- Natural Sugar Free Sweetener

My homemade fig honey
I am on a quest with my family to cut back all our use of processed white sugar, and replacing it with chemical free, frugal sweeteners. In my attempt to find something to use as a sweetener instead of expensive honey and maple syrup, I was trying to figure out what I could use to make my own healthier sweetener. (Note- too much of any sweetener isn't so healthy, but I'm trying to use sweeteners as close to how they come in nature, without having been bleached or stripped of the nutrients that come together with the sweetness.)
A friend suggested to me to try to make a sweetener from one of the fruit I am able to get in my area either for free, either by gleaning or foraging, or at very low cost in season at the store or farmer's market. The first thing that came to mind was to try to make a sweetener out of figs, as I've got plenty of fig trees growing in my area, and I'm never quite sure what to do with them, and because they're so sugary and sweet.

I googled and scoured the internet, but didn't really come across with any good ways of making a sweetener out of figs.

So, I used my head and came up with this awesome idea- making fig honey! Ok, maybe honey is the wrong word to use and syrup would be a better description, but all the fig syrups I found on the internet contained white sugar, which is something completely different than what I made. This is a sweetener made entirely out of figs and water, nothing more.
And it contains no fig solids either, which makes it a good replacement for honey in recipes.

How do you make fig honey? Here's how.

A large amount of fresh ripe, and ideally overripe figs, the more the better. 4-5 pounds of figs will make approximately 2 cups of fig honey. Fig type doesn't make a difference. 
Water. Lots.

Equipment Needed:
2 large pots
1 mixing spoon
1 potato masher
1 colander
1 cheesecloth
1 mesh strainer (optional)
1 large bowl
1 plate

1. Wash figs well, but try not to smash them at all.

2. Place figs in a large pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil.

3. Cook figs in water for 20 minutes or so, until they get soft and water in which you've cooked the figs is pretty sweet. At some point during these 20 minutes, once the figs get soft, mash them with a potato masher.

4. Put the colander inside the large bowl and pour the figs and the water into the bowl, straining out the fig solids.

5. You'll likely have fig seeds in the water, so take this water and strain it through a mesh strainer lined with a cheesecloth, into your other large pot. 

6. Put the fig water on the stove and bring to a boil.

7. Put the figs back in the first pot, and fill with water to cover. Bring to a boil.

8. Repeat steps 3-5 many times, until the water in which you boil the figs is no longer sweet. Each time, add the fig water to that pot of fig water boiling on the stove.

9. Boil the fig water for a while. You want a lot of water to evaporate from it. Boil and boil and boil it until it starts to thicken like a syrup.

10. At one point, you may start to see the fig water boiling up, becoming really frothy and threatening to escape the pot. This means you're almost finished.  

11. Take a spoonful of the fig water/syrup and put it on a plate. Stick the plate in the freezer for 2-3 minutes, until cooled. Remove from freezer and note if the cooled liquid has a syrup like sticky consistency or is still watery. If it is still watery, continue to boil down for a few minutes, and then repeat step 11 until the chilled syrup is sticky.

12. Cool down the syrup and transfer to another container.

This syrup tastes terrific as a replacement for honey and sugar in nearly any recipe. It is very, very sweet; I find I need very little syrup to sweeten a large amount of food.

I am pretty sure you can do something similar with any other sweet (and not tart) fruit you can get cheaply in your area. 

What do you think of my idea? I'm so excited about having discovered it!!! This is one healthy sweetener that cost me nothing other than the price of the gas to run my stove!!!
Do you ever eat figs? Do they grow in your area? Do you think you'd ever try something like this, or do you think it's too much work to make it worth your while?

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  1. How long does this last? Do you need to keep it in the fridge? I was having the same brain wave today, i have SO MANY figs!

  2. This is not a sugar free sweetener. What makes figs sweet is the same type of sugar that is found in refined table sugar. Basically you have made a type of molasses.

  3. You're wrong anon. it is not like refined sucrose or table sugar at all. Most is amylose which naturally occurs in fruit and fructose. Thank you poster for the procedure! I'm a bit concerned over the processing and straining because it does remove the fiber and may cook off the good stuff figs have to offer. I'll be playing with the figs this year to do something similar.

  4. You're wrong anon. This is not at all like table sugar. It is amylose and fructose; sugars(polysaccarides) that the body can better deal with than refined sucrose or high fructose corn syrup. Thank you for the procedure. I'd like to know the shelf life as well.

    1. Sorry Velcrobomb, but I have to correct you. You are right in that sweetness in fruit comes in the form of glucose (amylose) and fructose. Refined sucrose is a disaccharide, which is made up of glucose and fructose. And guess what, high fructose corn syrup is a syrup mixture of glucose and fructose. During digestion, all of three of these are broken down into glucose and fructose by the time it enters your blood stream, which means they are processed by the body the same. Table sugar is 50/50 glucose fructose, corn syrup is about 30/70 glucose/fructose, and fig syrup is who knows... Probably more fructose than glucose. But the problem with refined sucrose and HFCS is not that they are inherently bad for you, but that people consume products with too high concentrations of them. Fruit, on the other hand, has less sugar and the added nutritional value of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Point is, if you drink the same amount of agave syrup, fig syrup, or other "natural" syrup per day as you do HFCS or simple syrup, it will not help you lose weight or prevent diabetes.

    2. If you think high fructose corn syrup does the same thing as naturally occurring sugar in fruit to your body you really need to go do some more reading... High fructose corn syrup is bonded together way more than any other sugar and is really hard for the body to break down unless you just ran 10 miles which almost no one does anymore.... It is harder on the liver when you try to break it down which makes it way more deadly for you than regular sugar. High fructose corn syrup is an industrial food product and far from “natural” or a naturally occurring substance. The fructose in high fructose corn syrup soaks up two phosphorous molecules from ATP which depletes your if energy twice as fast. High doses of free fructose have been proven to literally punch holes in the intestinal lining allowing nasty byproducts of toxic gut bacteria and partially digested food proteins to enter your blood stream and trigger the inflammation that we know is at the root of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia, and accelerated aging. Naturally occurring fructose in fruit is part of a complex of nutrients and fiber that doesn’t exhibit the same biological effects as the free high fructose doses found in “corn sugar”. Anything else you hear is propaganda from the food industry (think of the soda companies) who want to keep using cheap corn to make sugar and poison you while they make all the profit.

  5. All the science aside, I'll be giving this a go. I have two loaded fig trees in my back yard and have dried them, given them away and thought I'd make a syrup out of some. If I can use some of my figs to make some honey all to the good. Thanks for the tip!


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