I've spent years making and tweaking my fig filling recipe. My recipe stopped evolving when I spent the day with my friend, Mary Beth and her 92-year-old grandmother, baking fig cookies for a St Joseph Altar. In New Orleans, elaborate altars are constructed on March 19, the feast day of St. Joseph. This Italian-American tradition commemorates the relief St. Joseph provided during a famine in Sicily. The altars provide visitors a way to express gratitude for any fortune in their lives.
Preparation for St Joseph altars begin months in advance. I made about 1,000 cookies the year that I assisted Mary Beth with her altar. I was amazed as I watched her grandmother's skilled hands prepare delicate little cookies all day long. As we shared baking tips, they were surprised to discover that I add a touch of black pepper and a splash of red wine to my fig filling. They taught me to add preserves to my fig filling.
I primarily use fig filling to make cookies, but I have been known to experiment with it. I have layered the filling in a vanilla cake with delicious results. I have also baked the filling with Brie for a quick and easy appetizer. Although the fig filling recipe is complete, the uses for it continue to evolve.
Makes 4 cups
1 cup apricot preserves (pineapple or peach can be substituted)
1 cup fig preserves
1 pound dried figs, any variety, stems removed
1 cup raisins
1 Tablespoon orange zest
1 Tablespoon fresh ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons red wine (optional)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Place the apricot preserves, fig preserves, figs, raisins, orange zest, cinnamon, wine and black pepper in a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are spreadable and a slightly chunky consistency. Use the prepared filling for fig cookies or as a condiment with charcuterie/cheese plate.