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The Mystery of the Fig of Commerce: How a California Pioneer Nurseryman Found the Secret

California produces 98% of all the figs grown in the United States - but it was a long process to get there.

The author's Sultan de Marabout fig tree laden with September figs. Photo credit: Georgeanne Brennan
Georgeanne Brennan

Georgeanne Brennan

Georgeanne Brennan is the author of more than 30 cookbooks and gardening books and has written extensively about Provence and France.

Fig-Glazed & Fig-Stuffed Pork Rib Roast

Photo credit: Sara Remington

The following recipe is adapted from La Vie Rustic: Cooking and Living in the French Style by Georgeanne Brennan (Weldon Owen, 2017)

Figs are one of the most glorious late-summer and fall fruits, and the trees are among the most hardy fruit trees to grow in a home orchard, as they are impervious to most disease and seem to thrive with a minimum of fuss. Ripe figs are relatively fragile and don’t ship well, which means we frequently see underripe, flavorless fruits in markets. With a fig tree in your yard, you can pick the fruit when it’s perfectly ripe and bring it directly into your kitchen. Since fresh figs lose a bit of their intense flavor when cooked, I combine them with dried figs for a stuffing or a sauce, as I do here, to ensure the fig flavor is manifest. This special-occasion dish calls for a bone-in pork loin roast and has both a glaze and a pan sauce. 

Preparation

  1. To prepare the pork, preheat the oven to 245°C (475°F). Use a sharp knife to separate the rib bones from the roast, keeping the knife as close to the bones as possible as you cut them away. (Or ask your butcher to separate the bones from the roast and to tie them back on with string for the trip home. Then, just before seasoning and stuffing the roast, snip the string holding the bones in place.)

2. Trim the stems from 4 of the fresh figs and all of the dried figs. Chop these figs and put them in a small bowl with the brandy, 2.5 ml (½ teaspoon) of the salt, 1.2 ml (¼ teaspoon) of the pepper, the sage, pepper flakes, and garlic. Let stand until you can mash the mixture with the back of the fork to make a paste, about 15 minutes. (Dried figs can take some time to soften up.)

3. Rub the meat and bones all over with the remaining 2.5 ml (½ teaspoon) salt and 1.2 ml (¼ teaspoon) pepper. With the bone side of the meat facing up, pack it with the fig stuffing. Place the ribs back in place, making sure they are in the same direction as they were cut, and tie them on with several pieces of kitchen string. It may be easier to do this if you have someone to help you. 

4. To make the glaze, combine 125 ml (½ cup) water, the wine, dried figs, honey, and sage in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the figs are soft and the glaze is reduced to about 125 ml (½ cup). Remove from the heat and strain the glaze through a chinois or fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the figs with the back of a spoon. Discard the solids.

5. Place the stuffed roast, bone side down, in an ovenproof frying pan and roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 165°C (325°F ). Baste for the first time with the glaze and continue to roast, basting several more times with the glaze, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat but not touching the bone registers 60°–63°C (140°–145°F) on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 minutes. Transfer the roast to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5–10 minutes before carving.

6. While the roast is resting, slice the remaining 3 fresh figs and set aside.

7. To carve the roast, snip the strings and gently remove the ribs. Carve the roast into 6 mm (¼-inch) or 12 mm (½-inch) slices (depending on your preference), reserving any juices. Arrange the pork slices on a platter. Slice between the ribs to separate them and arrange them on the platter, too. Cover loosely with foil while you prepare a pan sauce.

8. To prepare the pan sauce, pour the collected juices from the carving board into a saucepan along with any succulent bits from the frying pan (don’t include any burnt bits). Add the wine and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the butter and continue to cook until reduced by about half. Drizzle the pan sauce over the sliced pork and garnish with the reserved fresh fig slices. Serve at once.