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Preserving Food Memories: Spiced Sweet Pickled Figs

devon 6 Comments

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sweet pickled figs

Preserving Food Memories: Spiced Sweet Pickled Figs

Devon 6 Comments

Sweet pickled figs with cinnamon, allspice, clove, and cardamom are a sweet, candy-like relic of bygone palates and childhood memories.

I probably received my penchant for nostalgia from my father.  He is a man of big emotions and a tendency to recall the “good ole days” as if is watching the scenes of his life on a 1960’s movie projector.

My dad shares tales of his Southern California (and later Oregon) upbringing, with the charm of a gifted storyteller.  There is no ignoring his yarns of blooming orange trees in Nana’s backyard to losing all his front teeth after crashing his bike on the very steep Athena Drive in San Pedro.  My dad weaves big unforgettable tales.  No tales are quite so perfect than his recollections of the foods from his youth.  My father has always had a gourmet’s appetite.  I might spare you the details of finest Scotch broth (it definitely involves a sheep’s head – hmm, maybe I will write on that one day, on second thought), and I have already covered scones and shortbread.  But the food memory my father recalls with the mistiest of eyes is Momo’s (his maternal grandmother) sweet pickled figs.  There is simply no denying that this single food stole his youthful heart.

sweet pickled figs

Alas, the ravages of time, moving, and loss has left these sweet pickled figs as just an element of my father’s vivid childhood recollections.  No written family recipe exists, and those that might recall Momo’s methods have long since passed. But it is his food memory that stuck with me the most.  I have never been able to shake the desire to replicate these figs for my father.  It is the reason I planted my fig trees.  When my trees finally offered a crop to reckon with this year, I called my father and had him recount his memories of sweet pickled figs in every luxurious detail.  With his vivid recall and a bit of online research, I think I have come close to capturing the wonder of sweet pickled figs.

fig tree

My “Desert King” fig tree droops heavy with the first (breba) and second (main) crops of figs this year.  This particular variety produces a fig with a bright green exterior and a lovely raspberry hued flesh. You can see more about growing figs here.  About 20 very large fruits finally softened, indicating ripeness and there was only one thought on my mind.  Sweet pickled figs.

cut figs

Mind you – the word “pickled” and the addition of vinegar might deter some from the recipe.  Let me reassure you that these are no ordinary pickle.  These sweet pickled figs are most candy-like, syrupy, and richly spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, and cardamom pods.  That vinegar only lends a nod of acidity, providing balance on the palate.

I now know why these figs are among the fondest of my father’s memories.  Eaten right out of the jar with a spoon, these sweet pickled figs would be gone in an instant.  Spooned over vanilla bean ice cream with crumbled amaretti or ginger snap cookies –these figs would also be at equally at home. Plain greek yogurt with a smattering of the figs and their syrup – a divine breakfast, indeed. The syrup itself is a special blend of spicy, fruity, sweet and a little bit tangy – mix with sparkling water or into a cocktail for something extra special.

sweet pickled figs

Recipe Notes:  For those seeking to hammer me about the amount of sugar used in this recipe — move on.  This is intended to be a very special dessert for a very special occasion.  I will not fool with perfection.  Besides — we aren’t going to eat these every day (or are we?). This recipe would also benefit from the use of slightly firmer fruit.  I used my large, very ripe figs which I cut in half which resulted in some figs losing shape (no less delicious, however).  I was very pleased with the smaller firmer figs that I left whole.  I also chose to leave the spices in the syrup — I like the way it looks, but you can tie them up in cheese cloth for easy removal if desired.

Spiced Sweet Pickled Figs Recipe

Sweet Pickled Figs with Cinnamon, Allspice, Clove & Cardamom

Sweet pickled figs with cinnamon, allspice, clove, and cardamom are a sweet, candy-like relic of bygone palates and childhood memories.  Makes approximately two quarts or four pints.


  • 20-30 medium to large figs (you may use more if your figs are especially small)
  • 6 cups organic sugar
  • 1 cup organic apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries whole
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom pods whole
  • .5 tablespoon cloves whole


  • Prepare figs by rinsing; cut extremely large figs in half, or pierce smaller whole figs a few times.  Brind a large pot of water to a boil.  Remove pot from heat and gently place prepared figs into hot water.  Let the figs sit for five minutes then drain.
  • While figs are steeping in hot water, place sugar, vinegar, water and spices in a large stockpot.  Over medium high heat, bring mixture to a boil.  Once mixture boils, reduce heat to a simmer and place drained figs into the simmering syrup carefully.
  • Adjust heat to maintain a strong, but gentle simmer.  Simmer figs in syrup for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Ladle figs, syrup and spices (if so desired) into clean jars. Place prepared lids and rings on jars and screw finger tight.  Process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts.  Remove from canner and allow to cool completely at room temperature.
  • Check lids for seal and loosen or remove rings.  Store in a cool, dark cabinet for up to a year.  Refrigerate after opening.

Sweet Pickled Figs


Devon is a writer and author on subjects of holistic and sustainable living. She has a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine from the American College of Healthcare Sciences, and her first book, The Backyard Herbal Apothecary, was published by Page Street Publishing in Spring 2019. Devon's work outside of can be seen at,,, and in the magazine The Backwoods Home. Devon's second book, The Herbalist's Healing Kitchen, will be published Fall 2019.

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  • Mary August 21, 2017 at 11:51 am

    My fig tree is PACKED with figs in the process of ripening. Even the smaller fig tree that hasn’t ever had a ripened fig (I think it’s planted is a less than optimum location) has figs, due to a milder than normal winter. In short, I anticipate being bombarded with figs within the next month. #goodthing This recipe is on my list of Fig To-Dos.

    • Devon August 21, 2017 at 7:54 pm

      Hi, Mary!
      This is the first year that my trees bore more than a few figs. I have now harvested all of the first crop, and I am really hoping that my second crop will ripen enough before the cool weather sets in so that I may make another batch of these yummy figs! I am going to give it a shot even if they don’t get fully ripe as I feel there is enough sugar in this recipe to offset some slightly “green” figs.

  • Ana Gabriela Solis August 25, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    The moment I saw this recipe I knew I had to make it. I live in South Florida so of course I don’t have access to gorgeous fig trees but I was able to find some pretty yummy looking ones and I decided to give it a shot. THEY CAME OUT SOO GOOD!! Thank you for the amazing recipe!!

    • Devon August 25, 2017 at 11:08 pm

      I am so glad that you love the recipe, Ana! We are sure enjoying ours — I am just hoping to be able to harvest a second crop for another batch before the weather cools!
      Thank you so much for commenting!

  • Mary Hall August 26, 2017 at 11:54 am

    I made this this morning and it smells amazing! Was also thinking it would be good with apricots or peaches, maybe even sliced apples–what do you think? Would it be safe to can if other fruit was substituted?

    • Devon August 27, 2017 at 8:09 pm

      Hi, Mary! I am so glad that you are enjoying the recipe. No doubt your home smells AMAZING!
      I have done a very similar recipe with peaches and it was lovely. The apricots and apples would be great too, although the malic acid of apples and acetic acid of the vinegar might be a little off-putting if the apples aren’t super ripe. I feel like there is enough vinegar and sugar here to make this recipe pretty safe for most fruits that have a reasonable about of acid themselves (like, avoid pumpkin and other super dense starchy “fruits”).

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    About Me

    About Me

    Meet the Nitty Gritty Mama, Devon!

    I am an herbalist, farmer, cook, and forager. I get my hands dirty and am not afraid to do things the "hard way". Sharing my Nitty Gritty Life with you! Read More



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