How many figs is it possible to eat without making yourself sick? We'll get back to you when we reach that point. Pink Panther and I picked Saturday morning. When we got ready to leave his basket was still empty - not one single fig. I ate my share, but I did bring home a few to preserve.
For my favorite preserves, whole figs with stems, you must choose your figs wisely. The figs need to be perfectly ripe with no blemishes. Feel free to pop any fig not meeting standards into your mouth. Rinse your figs, remembering that ripe figs are delicate. Then layer figs and sugar in a bowl or if you want to save dish washing, the stainless steel pot you will use to cook them. The standard is one cup of sugar for one cup of fruit, but if you are doing whole figs which can't be measured accurately because they are so loosely packed use less. I use 3/4 cups or less. My mother and I agree on this because the idea is to highlight and preserve the fruit, not just eat sugar. This time I used 2/3 cup. It just looked right. Finish your layering with sugar, then cover with a dishcloth and let sit for 24 hours to let the sugar draw juice from the figs. If the weather is steamy hot, the process may not take as long. Check on them often so your figs don't spoil.
Once juice is drawn, add some lemon slices. You do this to raise the acidity so you don't have to use a pressure canner, because it is pretty, and it tastes good. I squeeze the lemon ends into the mix, but don't cook them. Start cooking your figs over low heat until all the sugar melts, then raise the temperature and boil without stirring (the figs will break and you lower the temperature) until approximately 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Adjust accordingly if you are in the mountains.
Remove from heat and carefully jar the figs in sterilized warm jars. I spoon in the figs first, then add the lemons. Finally, I strain the syrup into the jars. With truly ripe figs, some will not endure the processing so will explode and leave their seeds in the syrup. Though there is nothing wrong with the seeds, I don't like to see them floating around in the jars. I also eat the exploded figs, so they don't have to go into the jars either. Just call me obsessive.
Once you have the lids fitted, let your jars enjoy a hot water bath. These jars are beautiful and delicious gifts.