Putting up Figs

July 22, 2020


a happy little story

Here’s a big secret sneak peek look at what was the first go-round of cover design for my new book! It has already moved Waaaaaayyyyyy beyond this stage, but it’s still going to be in the same pop-art style.

During my stay-at-home time, I’ve been working on pulling everything together. I think this book will be even better than my first, The Majorettes are Back in Town.

Non-political and non-stressful, happy short stories seem to be in demand these days. My first book is still seeing strong sales perhaps because of all the trouble in the world. We’re being pulled back to getting lost in good clean stories — thank goodness!

I’m going to take a week or so off for some summer “fun” (Hmm . . . back yard or front yard?) But if you aren’t already following here with your email in the sidebar, please sign up so you’ll get an email notice when I return. You can also follow along on Facebook and Instagram. With a new book on the horizon, I need to build up my list of followers! – thanks for your help!

And speaking of a fun, clean story . . . Here’s this week’s column for AL.com

Putting up Figs

“I’m going to yank a knot in your tail if you shoot another bottle rocket in my fig tree.” It was the 4th of July and I was yelling across the yard to my son, who along with the rest of the town was lighting up the sky with store-bought fireworks to replace the cancelled city show. I had babied those two trees for years and they’d finally started producing the prettiest figs I’d ever seen. I was picking five pounds of fruit each day. 

Five pounds . . . I just thought I’d repeat that for emphasis. You may think that’s nothing if you have a huge fig orchard — grove — forest — jungle, but for two medium sized trees, I thought it was pretty impressive.  

Southern figs - Putting up summer figs - Leslie Anne Tarabella

Since the birds stole every one of my blueberries a few weeks earlier, I was on guard and ready to defend the figs. My finger was poised to mash the “buy now” button to order a bag of rubber snakes, but I chickened out at the last moment. Who am I kidding? Even though I knew the vipers were fake, I’d still have a heart attack every time I came eye to eye with one of their forked plastic tongues, and something tells me the birds wouldn’t be fooled anyway.

Southern figs - What to do with all those figs? Putting up summer figs - Leslie Anne Tarabella

Just when I thought I had the birds under control, our Vizsla/mixed hound, Doug, calmly trotted into the house one night and said, “Woof! Hey, y’all, there’s a large possum frolicking in the fig tree.” A hullabaloo ensued with my son grabbing a flashlight, various possum artillery, and of course, since he’s young — his phone. Doug howled and did his best to defend the crops, and I ran around the yard in my nightgown screaming, “don’t wake the neighbors!” My husband slept soundly inside, and my fig trees were stripped bare. 

My grandmother made fig preserves and although I thought they were too sweet, my husband’s grandmothers loved them. We’d take them from my Granny and give them to his Nana and Mimi in sort of a geriatric fig preserve laundering operation. But like them or not, I came up short for making my own preserves because I never learned to “can” or “put up” things. Gazing at the colorful glass quilt of shimmering jars on granny’s pantry shelves made me think canning was an art. I was correct. 

Fig and goat cheese appetizer. Southern figs - Putting up summer figs - Leslie Anne Tarabella
Figs mixed with blackberries, strawberries, goat cheese and balsamic glaze.

I gave some figs to friends, then froze some whole to use later in smoothies and Mediterranean style recipes. We also ate them freshly picked, with a sprinkling of goat cheese and balsamic vinegar. With the rest, I made a sugar-free puree like applesauce, and froze it to use later in place of oil in baking. But first, I tried the art of canning.

Frozen fig puree - no sugar added, healthy alternative to fig preserves. Southern figs - Putting up summer figs - Leslie Anne Tarabella

I called my cousin, Marolyn, the home economics teacher, for advice. “Boil the lids, clean the jars, fill them, then submerge in boiling water.” At least that’s what I thought she said. It seemed to work, but a few days later, the jars started gurgling and oozing pink puree resulting in yet another fig-related hullabaloo, this time in the kitchen. I think I’m a kinesthetic learner and need hands-on instruction. 

It’s a hot mess to crawl through scratchy fig leaves in July, but the fruit is worth it, despite the birds, bugs, bottle rockets and beady-eyed varmints. 

Thanks for reading!


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