Did you know that figs are inverted flowers, i.e. the flower is inside the fruit? Do you know why figs are so delicious when eaten with all sorts of cheese?
Are you looking for a nice appetizer, a sandwich or an entrée with figs and cheese?
If I picked your curiosity, it’s time to explore this one-of-a-kind fruit! If your only experience with figs is in the form of a Newton fig bar, you have been missing out on an amazing fruit. Delicately sweet and impressively versatile, figs are delicious by themselves or paired with contrasting flavors. Figs and cheese create an especially perfect partnership. Figs’ unique flavor and texture balance or enhance almost any type of cheese.
A Quick Fig Overview
Originating in western Asia, figs have been eaten for thousands of years, and were a common food in Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures (check out this great article for more information on the history of figs) as cultivation of the trees spread across the Mediterranean. Spanish missionaries brought figs to America in the early 1500s, and priests planted the first trees at the San Diego Mission in 1769. By the late 19th century, fig orchards could be found throughout Southern California, where they still flourish today.
Figs have two short growing seasons: the first in early summer, and the second in late summer/early fall. Dried and preserved figs can be found year-round.
Botanically, the fig isn’t considered a fruit. When you bite into a fig, you’re actually eating the tree’s inverted flowers. The flower clusters blossom within the fig’s pear-shaped pod, producing the squiggly petals and abundant seeds inside.
What Makes the Fig Such a Great Cheese Pairing?
Perhaps because figs are technically flowers, they have a floral characteristic to their scent and flavor. Despite their high sugar content, their sweetness has a mild, honey-like quality. Fresh figs have a creamy texture, while dried figs are chewy and more intensely flavored. The tiny seeds within the flesh provide a crunchy, nutty balance to the fruit’s sweetness.
These unique flavor attributes make figs – whether fresh, dried, or preserved – a fantastic companion to cheese. According to this article in SeriousEats.com, a good cheese pairing “can elevate the flavor of a cheese” by balancing its taste and texture, transforming each bite into a new experience. Figs’ delectable flavor profile, plus the varying forms in which they can be served, make them an extremely versatile cheese pairing. For example:
- Figs’ mild acidity cuts though creamy cheeses like Brie, Boursin, or Camembert.
- Figs’ sweetness offsets the tanginess of goat cheese.
- Figs’ soft texture and honeyed flavor balance firm, sharp cheeses, such as Cheddar, Parmesan, and Asiago.
- Floral and fruity, figs soften the earthy funk of Gorgonzola, Stilton, and other blue cheeses.
We’re not alone in recognizing figs’ deliciousness! Take a look at these noteworthy fig preserves:
- Smoky Fig & Roasted Garlic Spread by Robert Rothschild ($6.99). Figs, roasted garlic, and a subtle onion flavor blend together for a bold, smoky flavored spread.
- Fig Preserve by Bonnie’s Jams ($10.00). This simple jam keeps the ingredients list to a bare minimum.
- Figs and Black Tea by Quince & Apple ($9.99 on Amazon). Steeped in Indonesian tea, this sweet Black Mission Fig spread takes on a delicately spicy tone.
- Fig Spread by Dalmatia ($8.70 on Amazon). Made with Adriatic Figs, this spread is too sweet for our personal taste, and consequently can overwhelm the cheese, but it is the one most commonly found in grocery stores.
- Last by not least, our own Dried Fruits Conserve Cheese Companion ($5.99 for 5.1 oz) puts figs at the forefront. It is the perfect pairing for your favorite cheese. Less sugary than traditional jams, our conserve contains mainly dried Mediterranean figs (which we believe to have a richer taste than Californian figs) and apricots, with some raisins, prunes and of course some delicate spices, providing a mildly sweet, yet full-flavored fruit spread.
While figs are a superb addition to a cheese plate, the pairing also combines well at the dinner table. When you’re ready to impress your guests – or just want to indulge alone – add these fig and cheese recipes to your repertoire:
- For a simple, yet elegant appetizer, try Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese, Rosemary and Honey. You can use our European Raw Honeys for more flavor!
- On the sandwich side, this flavorful Prosciutto, Fig, and Brie Panini calls for sweet fig preserves, creamy Brie, salty prosciutto, and spicy arugula.
- Also with brie, it is hard to resist this Grilled Cheese with Rosemary and our Dried Fruits (Fig & Apricot) Conserve.
- And finally, cooked figs pair beautifully with meat in this Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Figs & Goat Cheese entrée.
When it comes to food pairings, figs and cheese are perfectly suited for each other. Be sure to have some fresh figs or preserves on hand to make the most of your next cheese tasting!