Jeanette C. Van Duyn on Making ‘Fig Preserve Dainty’

"A quickly-prepared and delicious dessert can be made from a cupful of stiffly whipped cream, one tablespoonful castor sugar, half a cupful of nut-meats and a little chopped fig preserves. Serve in tall  sherbet glasses that have been lined with lady-fingers or thin slices of sponge-cake, and garnish with a few candied cherries. This dessert can be made in a few moments, and should be served as cold as possible. It looks dainty and tastes delicious."

Jeanette C. Van Duyn, Canning, Preserving, Pickling and Fruit Desserts (1921)

Here in the UK we’re stuck in that awkward, early spring, fruit garden hungry gap where nothing is anywhere near fruiting, bnever mind being ripe and ready enough to pick fresh, unless you’ve got a particularly early variety of rhubarb1Technically a vegetable, not a fruit, I know, but it still works brilliantly in a crumble. or have forced a crown or two.

Today’s recipe comes to the rescue, by making use of some of the preserved fruit – in this case, figs – that you prepared and laid down in your cellar or pantry last summer and autumn, when your fruit harvest was at the peak of perfect ripeness.

As Jeanette C. Van Duyn says, this is a simple recipe that needs little unpacking from me. Except… the author gives us a list of ingredients, but doesn’t actually tell us what to do with them. Do we whip the cream then sprinkle on the castor sugar or whip the two together? Are the nuts mixed through the cream, or scattered on top? Are the preserved figs mixed in, or dolloped on the top? Or on the bottom? Does it really matter? Can you just wing it and hope for the best? Probably, yes. Pass the sherbet glasses, and let’s just give it a go.

How about you? Do you like the sound of this dainty, cakey, creamy, figgy confection? Do let me know if so, via the comments.


  • 1
    Technically a vegetable, not a fruit, I know, but it still works brilliantly in a crumble.


  1. Hi Darren T I have found another fig fellow eh? I live north of Atlanta GA US and have experienced my first fig die back in 30 yrs! oh so painful to see this proud mass of a plant absolutely naked and it’s finger tips breaking off! Thankfully I have a gallon and a half of quartered fruit in the freezer and that may hold me until the tree regrows. I am encouraged it will recover as I saw tiny sprouts on a lesser fig (planted 3 yrs ago) yesterday.

    I found the plant sprouting from a rental lawn in 1991 and at the time I just found the few hand shaped leaves attractive so I dug out a bit that had roots and potted it for the move to our new place and it took very well.

    I also use unripe fruit (from trimmings) sliced and boiled tender as a veggie in a cheesy sauce for topping pasta, the dried leaves for tea and I flavor home-made sauerkraut with tender leaf shreds. I feel loved when I think of the Fig tree! Between weather modification and Solar Minimum even the fig trees here may need to be wrapped for a few years. A minor blip in the world’s woes? “Enjoy Life Forever lff”

    1. Hi Geralyn! Thank you for your comment, all the way from Atlanta GA to Manchester UK. I sincerely hope your magnificent-sounding fig recovers from the shock and re-grows new shoots. We had the same thing happen on a much smaller scale a couple of years back – I wrote about it at the time – and I’m happy to say the tree recovered well and has fruited nicely since then. Fingers crossed your tree bounces back just as well.

      This year I took some hardwood cuttings from the tree whilst I was pruning it, by way of insurance, so hopefully I’ll have a couple of rooted ones to grow on in pots, just in case.

      That’s a great idea for using the unripe fruits. We only ever have the early figs ripen here in our part of the UK, the later ones tend not to, so it would be great to have a good recipe for using them up before the frost gets to them. Someone told me about oven-roasting them with honey as well, but I’ve not tried that yet. I do love the taste of a perfectly ripe fig though, absolutely stunning!

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