Welcome to the third installment in a series of guest posts by classically-trained musicians who also happen to be foodies! This post comes from Maia Jasper, a fantastic violinist based in Los Angeles, California. On her own blog, Sweet Alchemies, she combines food with classical music in a novel and fun way, providing a “classical pairing” for each recipe. Today, she shares a recipe for an amazing-looking fig jam, laced with port wine, rosmeary, and lemon. This looks way to good to pass up, and with figs in season, it’s the perfect time to make a batch to use for holiday gifts.
To pair with her port wine-doused preserves, Maia chose a suitably tipsy selection, Don Giovanni’s celebratory aria “Fin Ch’han dal Vino.” Having performed the role of Donna Anna in this opera during my undergrad, Maia’s selection brings back lots of fun memories for me. I hope you enjoy her post!
After a summer afternoon spent picking blackberries in Puget Sound, Washington, my grandmother filled a large saucepan with our harvest. I vividly remember the stepstool I required to fulfill my pot-stirring duties (I was four years old), canning the finished jam, and most of all, the excitement of cooking for the first time.
Strangely, I haven’t made jam since. Because I inevitably bemoan the end of summer, the thought of literally “preserving” a small piece of it has always appealed to me. This jam is a wonderful way to savor summer fruits for many more months to come. Its explosive and extremely addicting flavor pairs well with just about anything. Plus, with only 6 ingredients, it couldn’t be simpler to make. And the addition of port wine brings a “grown up” dimension to a process I will always remember fondly from a four-year-old’s point of view.
Drunken Fig Jam with Rosemary, Port, and Lemon (Adapted from Food and Wine)
2 pounds figs (I used California mission figs), stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch dices (slightly bigger if you like it chunky)
3/4 cup sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup port (I used zinfandel port, but white port would pair well with green figs)
1 6-inch rosemary sprig
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
In a large, nonreactive saucepan, toss the chopped figs with the sugar. Let stand, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. When the sugar is mostly dissolved and the figs are juicy, add the lemon zest and juice, rosemary, salt, and port. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer the jam over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the fruit is soft and the liquid runs off the side of a spoon in thick drops. Once the jam has cooled, remove the rosemary sprig and any leftover leaves you can readily locate. Transfer to sterile canning jars.
For a musical pairing, I hope you’ll enjoy my all-time favorite wine-themed moment in classical music history: “Fin Ch’han dal Vino” (“Til They Are Tipsy”) from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, an opera based on the notorious life of its title character. (“Don Giovanni” in Italian is “Don Juan” in Spanish; and yes, that would be the very same Don Juan for whom the phrase “he’s a real ______” was coined!)
This version is performed by Rod Gilfry, a baritone with whom I have had the pleasure of sharing the stage on a few occasions now (in this capacity). Although I may be biased, I am partial to Rod’s interpretation. He captures a breathlessly manic, compulsive, and ominously virile quality that totally befits the character of the most legendary womanizer of all time. The aria itself begins at 1:45.
The lyrics are just too good not to share. Though the dance styles Don Giovanni mentions have long been obsolete, he makes it abundantly clear just how little testosterone has evolved in the past 300 years. Here is an English translation:
Till they have got some wine and are hot-headed,
let’s prepare a great party.
If in the piazza you find some girl,
try to make her come here with you.
Let the dance be wild,
a minuet, a folia,
and an allemande you shall lead.
In the meanwhile, I shall have my own fun
making love to this or that girl.
Ah, my list tomorrow morning
Shall have at least ten new entries.
In keeping with this post’s theme of, er, indiscriminate coupling, here are just a few of the ways I’ve already enjoyed this fig jam.
Thanks to Coco for inviting me to post here, and I hope you’ll visit soon!