Canned Figs
(Mama Doris' Canned Figs)

There is no better preserve than home canned figs.  I grew up eating my mama's canned figs.  The figs were always picked fresh and canned that day.  My mama has supplied me with home canned figs all my life (am I spoiled or what!).  The figs were always picked from fig trees on the home place.  The fig trees are older than I am.  The trees are probably the cultivar Celeste (, which is the most common fig you'll find in home yards throughout the south. 

Celeste is a very sweet fig and is excellent for canning 
A couple of years ago I began facing a life changing problem.  Mama's fig trees are finally getting too old and do not yield many figs, and my mama is not up to canning figs any more (gosh, at 88 years of age, its about time she takes a break).  Luckily, two years ago Mrs. Ellamae Lege came to the rescue.  Her husband, Mr. John, comes fishing at a lake by our house, and as thanks Mrs. Ellamae brought us a batch of home canned fig preserves (she always brings something from her garden).  And last year she brought a bucket of fresh picked figs.  So my wife and I decided to try canning our own figs.  Well, I called mama and asked her for her recipe and how she canned figs.  I had observed her canning all my life, but my job was only to screw the lids down tight at the end.  As it turns out, canning figs is pretty darn simple.  Also, I'm preparing for the future.  Last summer (2001), I air layered my mama's fig tree at the home place, and planted it in a prime location in my yard in College Station.  So in a few years I'll be back in the fig picking business again.


  • 16 cups (1 gal) fresh figs, washed and destined
  • 8 cups (about 4 lb) sugar 
  • 6-7 pint canning jars, with sealing lids and rings
the fig to sugar ratio is:
1 part figs to 1/2 part sugar (volume/volume)
adjust the recipe to the amount of figs you have
Pick figs:
  • now this is something I have a lot of experience at; I may not have canned figs until recently, but I sure spend a lot of time as a kid picking them
  • pick the figs that are soft and when the end of the fig is just starting to open 
  • do not pick figs that are too soft or smell sour
  • the figs must be picked daily when the trees are bearing
  • do not pick figs after a heavy rain; if you expect a rain, get out and pick them before it rains

fresh picked figs
Wash and De-Stem Figs:
  • wash the freshly picked figs.
  • remove the stems (some leave the stems on, but who wants to remove them at the table)

  • either can immediately, or store for no more than a day in the refrigerator
de-stem and wash figs
Cook figs.
  • add 8 cups (about 4 lb) sugar to a large thick walled pot
  • stir in  just enough water to dissolve the sugar, about 1 1/2 to 2 cups
  • stir and bring to a boil for a couple of minutes until clear
  • add 16 cups (1 gal) washed, de-stemmed figs
    • the fig to sugar ratio is 1 part fig to 1/2 part sugar by volume; 

    • adjust the recipe based on the volume of figs you have to can.
  • cook over low heat to maintain a slow boil
  • stir occasionally, but not so vigorously to mash the figs too much
  • do not cook over too high a heat or the figs will stick and burn

  • cook until syrupy and the figs are a light brown, about 2-3 hours
  • I like my figs mashed a bit, so I mash them lightly at the end;  some like to keep them as whole as possible - do what ever "floats your boat"
slow boil fig/sugar mixture
the figs are ready to can 
when the mixture is syrupy 
and the figs are light brown
Prepare canning jars
  • clean pint and/or quart canning jars, rings and lids

  • it's a good  idea to boil the jars, rings and lids to sterilize
Can figs
  • fill the canning jars with the hot fig/syrup mixture to about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the top of the jar
  • wipe the top of the jar to assure there is no fig/syrup around the top rim of the jar
  • place the lid on the top of the jar, and screw down the ring finger tight;

  • if you screw the lid down too tight, then air cannot escape during boiling
    in the next step and you may not get a good seal upon cooling
  • immerse the jars in a boiling water bath, and boil for 30 minutes
  • remove the jars from the bath and tighten down the ring 
  • set the jars aside and allow to cool; as they cool you will hear the lids pop when they seal
  • after the jars are cooled, check that all the lids have popped inward
  • do not store any jars whose lids do not seal
  • after the jars have cooled and sealed, you can remove the ring;  any jars

  • with a loose lid that did not seal should be refrigerated and eaten 
  • label and date the jars
Makes  6-7 pints of canned figs

pH, Acidity, Water Activity and Food Safety
My food science buddy Al tells me you want canned fruit to have an acid pH of 4.6 or less to prevent anaerobic food poisoning bacteria from growing .  Figs are not very acid and have a pH of 4.9-5.0.  For this reason some recipes call for a teaspoon or so of lemon juice in each jar before canning to make sure the pH is low enough.  However, my mother never added lemon juice, and we all survived.  Another option is to pressure cook the figs as one would low acid vegetables, but who wants to do that!  So my buddy Al tested some of my canned figs and said they are safe because the sugar content is high enough to decrease the "water activity" enough so that the pathenogic bacteria cannot grow.  You should decide if you want to be extra safe and add lemon juice.  Personally, I'll just stick to my mama's high sugar recipe.  For more detail to make your decision go to Canning Foods At Home.

ladle hot figs into jars
seal and lightly boil in hot
water bath for 30 minutes
remove from water bath and 
check that lids seal and  pop
inward after cooling
label and date
©David Wm. Reed