Tuesday, 4 March 2014

urban foraging

the bluestone cobbled lanes in my suburb were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for the night men who emptied the closet toilets..despite their less than salubrious history the lanes hold a fascination for me and when i go walking down one i'm taken to another world..

out the front, on the main streets, houses and gardens on their best behaviour
less self conscious when viewed from the lanes
back fences ramshackle and discordant
creepers and trees run riot

hear the sounds of the night man's cart
the clip clop of the horses hooves
and the wheels on the cobbled bluestone
in the eerie early morning dark 
see the vapour steaming horse nares
smell the sweaty hot horse smell
and (ignore) the stench of human excrement

tough, dark and serious
don't mess with me
volcano spewed aphanite
hewn by human hand
and hauled from the west of melbourne

i never see anyone else when i go walking down any of the lanes and that i like..it's a way of getting away without getting away..and an added bonus are the fig festooned branches that drape themselves seductively across my path..each autumn i am able to pick figs to my heart's content..and this year has been no exception..usually i just eat them fresh but this year i decided to have another go at making fig jam..yep..i've made fig jam many times before but even when i've added lemon peel and juice to counteract the sweetness i've still found fig jam sickly sweet..

not too sweet vinegar fig jam
tea with hazel
makes 1 medium jar*


450 gms slightly under ripe figs, stems and blemishes removed, and cut to preferred size (i cut mine small)
325 gms sugar
100 mls filtered water
40 mls red wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


~ place sugar, water and red wine vinegar in a saucepan, heat slowly, stirring, until sugar has melted, then bring to the boil
~ add the figs and boil until setting point has been reached (i used a potato masher to break up persistent pieces of fig)
~  remove from the heat and stir in balsamic vinegar to taste
~ pour into sterilised jar and seal


* the recipe may be doubled but any further increase in quantity tends to effect the cooking and setting times which can have a deleterious effect on the taste, colour and consistency of the jam

are you an urban forager? if so, what do you find in your area?

this post submitted to punk domestics


  1. Oooh! Beautiful post and lovely expressions and observations.

  2. Beautiful words and jam Jane! You have created a wonderful picture. Figs are amazing aren't they? There are a lot of narrow lanes in Broken Hill too and they are fascinating, lots of old tin fences, old overhanging trees and interesting buildings. I think they were used for the night men too. Our lanes could tell a lot of stories couldn't they?

    1. thankyou jane..i wish i'd seen the lanes in broken hill when i was there..they sound wonderful..x

  3. Jane, cobbled lanes and free figs for the picking? What a gorgeous post.. :)

  4. thanks celia..i picked more yesterday..some were so ripe i ate them for breakfast but the others will be made into more vinegar fig jam..x

  5. I remember my dad volunteering to take on the "turd truck run" back when some people still had outdoor loos to empty (last century) as it paid SO much more than a regular council job...I also remember back lanes with foraged fruit on the way to school ;). I LOVE figs. I doubt that any figs would make it back home let alone into jam but I have 6 fig trees now and once they get going even I will find it hard going to scoff the lot ;) I will save this recipe for just such a figgy occasion :)

  6. i like to remind myself how lucky and privileged we are to have great sanitation..i joke sometimes about my children having been toilet trained on an outside loo..that's all that our first house had until we put one into the bathroom just before we sold it..i loved that loo.. to clean it was so easy..lots of soap and water and a hose!

    i keep debating with myself whether to put in a fig tree or not..the problem is that trees have a habit of depleting vegetable garden beds..i need acreage like you!..x

  7. I vote for the fig tree! I begged DH to put one in, and now he's going to plant another variety to get a better spread of fruiting times. He keeps ours quite small- we can pick from ground level. I LOVE LOVE fig jam, and in spite of same husband making a wicked raspberry jam with our fruit, I rarely eat jam, so I might as well eat the one I adore the most. I do love your recipe, as the usual fig jam is a bit too cloying (and then I can't eat much of it in a sittin....)!

    Now I've found your blog, you're on my list!!