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Fig butter is a rich and sweet spread made from figs. One variety is a true fruit butter and is made by cooking and condensing figs into a rich paste. A second variety of fig butter is much simpler, and is made by combining fig preserves and butter or a butter substitute. Either variety can serve the same culinary functions as a traditional fruit butter. The fruit butter variety is commonly available for purchase in larger stores.
People throughout the world enjoy the sweet flavor of fresh figs. These fruit are notorious for traveling poorly, however, and fresh figs are rarely available outside of areas where fig trees grow naturally. Furthermore, figs are typically very hard to find during the time of the year when trees are not bearing fruit, as the fruit also do not keep for long.
Many fruits do not travel well. Historically, fruit preserves were used mostly to ensure a steady supply of nutritious and flavorful fruit products during periods of the year when they were not locally available. Fruit preserves, including fruit butters, rely on cooking and canning processes to first sterilize and then protect fresh fruit. The cooking process kills any microbes present in fresh fruit, as well as making the fresh fruit much easier to store. Canning then prevents any new microbes from entering the fruit and causing decomposition.
The creation of this type of fig butter is similar to that of any other traditional fruit butter. Such a recipe generally involves cooking the figs at a low temperature for two or more hours, until they are thoroughly softened. A small amount of additional liquid is typically added as well, to make the resulting butter easier to spread. Spices, such as cloves or cinnamon, can be added to taste. The cooked figs are then mashed or processed into a buttery paste.
Once a batch of fig butter has been cooked and processed, it is generally canned. The fig butter is placed into jars so that there is no empty space. These jars are sealed, and a hot water bath is used to kill any remaining bacteria. After this process is complete, fig butter is shelf-stable for months or years.
Another variety of fig butter is made by mixing ordinary butter or a butter substitute with preserved figs. Butter and honey are often mixed in this fashion, and the sweetness of preserved figs goes just as well with rich and salty butter as does the more traditional honey. This variety of fig butter should be refrigerated and has quite a short shelf-life.