Fig freezer jam
At the time, Kayla was about 18 months old. A precocious little girl who, when she came to visit, would line up my shoes and hand me any jackets I'd neglected to hang in the front closet.
Followed by some further tidying up, we'd unpack her day bag, discover what her parents had brought for her to play with, and bring out the books and blankets I kept at home just for her.
Then, and only then, could we have a snack of unsauced noodles or goldfish crackers, then read a book or two or 10. After which, we'd go for a walk, and see whether there was anything good at the nearby market.
Now, if I'm counting correctly, Kayla must be about 16 years old.
She has long since moved away with her parents. But when I was her babysitter - a 20-something wannabe writer working on her first practice novel - Kayla was lovely company.
As a teenager, I'd done a fair lot of babysitting.
Back then, I babysat children of every sort. From plump cherubs, to five year olds who swore strings of profanity and threw dishes at me once their parents left the house.
There were helpful 10-year-olds who dried spoons and forks while I washed their family's dishes. And sullen infants in soggy cotton diapers, with no clean ones, and no laundry detergent anywhere to be found.
Now that I was older and married, I was prepared to be choosy about other people's children.
No to the baby who wasn't allowed to glimpse the TV, and had to be turned away from the screen if I absolutely had to switch it on.
And no to the cat-grabber with tufts of fur gripped in both fists.
So when, one day, Kayla's parents dropped her off and cheerfully announced, "We just discovered that Kayla loves figs. She gobbled down a whole tray of them this afternoon," I bit my tongue, reminded myself what a rare and
sweet-hearted girl she was, and glanced over at the diaper bag to make sure it looked well and truly stocked.
In an emergency, I thought, a little frantically, we could dash down the street to the nearest grocery or pharmacy. But one thing was already certain. It was going to be a long and sticky night.
The first tummy rumblings began not long after Kayla arrived that afternoon. And by the second change of Pull Ups, I'd figured out to snip the diapers open rather than drag the jammy, seedy contents down Kayla's chubby little legs.
By the second change, Kayla had figured out to head straight for the tub and raise her arms to be lifted in. Then we'd snip and soap, and hope the figs had finally run their course.
Somewhere around the 10th change, and last diaper in the bag, Kayla's tummy settled and I lay her down to sleep.
A few hours later, when I returned a drowsy girl to her parents, along with an empty diaper bag, not one of us said a word.
Fig freezer jam
18 oz (535g) dried figs
3 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 Tbs freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 envelope (57g) fruit pectin
1 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
In a medium stainless steel pot, combine figs and water. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until figs are softened (about 20 minutes). Allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Puree.
Return pureed figs to pot, set over medium heat, and add orange and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Stir in pectin, granulated sugar, and brown sugar and return to a full rolling boil for one minute.
Remove pot from heat and add vanilla.
Ladle jam into six 1 cup jars and cool completely. Screw on lids and refrigerate (several weeks) or freeze (up to a year). Use as a spread, or stir into hot cereal for a mellow sweetness.