Instant Pot Bacon Jam Appetizer with Dried Figs

Let’s talk for a moment about our favorite ways to say sayonara to the year that was and to welcome the New Year. Something bubbly is always a good idea and this year instead of focusing on a lavish sit-down dinner, we are all about delightful bites and planning out a charcuterie board menu, brimming with different cheeses too. A charcuterie, antipasti, or cheese board are the perfect kind of things to pull together to snack on if you’re staying in and playing board games or if you’re hosting a dressy gathering and need something easy that’s also easy on the eyes! That’s where this bacon jam appetizer particularly shines.

Once we tasted Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon, we knew that it would make sweet music cooked down with our California Mission Dried Figs and we were right! This fig bacon jam is kind of addictive in the best possible way. Sure, you could eat the bacon jam appetizer as part of a starter or you could add it as a condiment on a sandwich (a sharp cheddar grilled cheese would be amazing!), but back to the charcuterie board menu. Curl a few slices of ham and turkey to tile on the board. Add crackers. Some different kinds of salami and figgy bacon jam and you are done.

If you’ve never made a bacon jam before, they typically cook low and slow for hours to ensure the onion and bacon are soft and jammy. We wanted to flip that script and save time using our electric pressure cooker—it takes around 40 minutes of mostly passive time for jam. Did we mention this fig bacon jam would make an incredible edible gift too? We found the recipe below easily tucks into 3 half pint glass jars.  Store the bacon jam in the refrigerator where it will keep for 2 to 4 weeks or you can freeze it for longer storage.

Instant Pot Bacon Jam Appetizer with Figs also makes incredible edible gifts!

Instant Pot Bacon Jam with Dried Figs

Course Cheese Plates

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 ounce) package Nueske's Applewood Smoked Bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 pound shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 10 ounces Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Mission Figs, stemmed and chopped
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Instructions

  1. Place the chopped bacon into the pot of your electric pressure cooker. Cook and stir for 5 minutes using the Saute feature, as it begins to release grease and cook a bit. Stir in the shallots, California Figs, salt, and pepper. Saute for an additional 3 minutes, stirring to combine.

  2. Cover and set the release valve to seal, cooking on high pressure for 10 minutes. Adjust the release valve to vent. Once the steam has fully escaped, open the pressure cooker and stir the fig bacon mixture.

  3. Repeat step 2 two more times, stirring after each batch—you will cook the bacon mixture a total of 30 minutes in the electric pressure cooker.

  4. Stir in the vinegar. Transfer the fig bacon mixture to a food processor and pulse until chunky for more of a relish or about 10 pulses for jam.

Honey Dried Fig Baked Ricotta

When you need a last minute appetizer, look past the cheese wheel and make a baked ricotta dip with California dried figs.

When the holidays (and holiday parties) are in sight, it’s a good idea to have an appetizer ace up your sleeve and this ricotta bake recipe is it. You could turn to cheese plates, but warm appetizers are a way to make family and friends cozy. This creamy spoonable cheese usually is associated with lasagna or even as a topping for toast, but that changes now. Sweet California Figs get stirred into the dip and tile the top too. Cover and chill leftovers in the refrigerator and then reheat it in a preheated oven set to 375°F to warm for 5-7 minutes. Try this dip with crackers or crostini.

Dip into honey dried fig baked ricotta with tortilla chips, crostini, or crackers.

Honey Dried Fig Baked Ricotta

Course Appetizer

Ingredients

Baked Ricotta

  • 1 cup Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice Mission Figlets or Sun-Maid California Mission Figs, chopped into very small pieces
  • 15 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 1 large lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Fresh-cracked black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Garnishes

  • 2 tablespoons Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice California Mission Figlets, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon crushed raw pistachios
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh chives, minced
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°degrees. Spray a 1-quart baking dish well with cooking spray.

  2. In a large bowl, combine ricotta, lemon zest and juice, honey, chives, garlic, salt, and a generous amount of black pepper. Mix well to fully combine. (NOTE: figs can slightly discolor the ricotta as it bakes, so I do not combine them into the mixture.)

  3. Work in layers to prepare the dish. Place 1/4 of the ricotta mixture into the baking dish, and then 1/3 of the figs. Repeat. The top layer should be ricotta mixture.

  4. Drizzle dip with olive oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until hot. Remove from oven. Drizzle with a little bit more olive oil, and garnish with sliced figs, crushed pistachio, and remaining chives. If desired, add a little more fresh-cracked black pepper.

  5. Serve with crackers or bread. Best served immediately while hot, but also delicious at room temperature.

Recipe and photos by Karyl Henry

Find other Thanksgiving fig appetizers by following us on Instagram @valleyfig

How to Set Up a Cheese Board

It’s American Cheese Month and you don’t have to tell us twice to pull out a platter. It’s no surprise that cheeseboards have been growing in popularity throughout the past few years. We’ve seen some pretty exquisite cheese platters, but if you’ve never made one before, you might be wondering how to set up a cheese board. Here are our top five tips to building a cheese platter everyone will devour.

Here's How to set up a cheese board. Five tips to get you partying quick.

1.) Pick out at least 3 or 4 different styles of cheese.

The name of the game here is variety–both in the styles of cheese (a sharp cheddar versus mild goat cheese) and in their textures too (one you slice, the other kind of crumbles). If you take this approach to concocting your cheese platter, you’re on your way to creating an epic appetizer. A few of our favorite cheeses to pair with California Figs include

2.) Load the cheese platter with fresh fruits.

This is where crafting the perfect cheese plate gets particularly fun. Look for what fruits are in season and slice up juicy pears or crispy apples in autumn. When winter comes, slice up Fuyu persimmons and break open pomegranates, letting their jewel-toned seeds sparkle with juice. Perhaps supreme a few oranges too. Spring for cherries and strawberries. Summer on with juicy stone fruits of nectarines, peaches and all the berries. Heck, throw on fresh figs when they’re available in summer and early autumn too.

3.) Don’t forget the dried figs.

Dried fruits like apricots or cranberries can add a chewy element for another texture on a cheese board. But, almost every cheese board worth its muster includes figs and this is where our California dried figs particularly shine. You can keep them whole to eat in one bite. Or, slice them up to tile onto crackers with cheese slices or crumbles. Cook them down into a compote. Blitz them into a sweet and savory olive spread. Stuff them with cheese and sprinkle on chocolatey cacao nibs. Anyway you think about it, their seeds sparkle with crunch and their flesh is all earthy sweetness.

4. Pack on the crisps.

The idea here is a slice of bread or cracker can carry the cheese and condiments to your mouth without fuss. So, slice up a crusty baguette. Toast it into crostini.  We like several kinds of crackers on our cheese platters and are fond of these snappy rounds from 34 Degrees (the original are our go-to crackers, but the black pepper add a bit of heat that’s nice too). La Panzanella’s mini croccantini are flatbread crackers that are sturdy and crunchy, perfect for cheeses that are especially melty.

5. Go Nuts.

Pile on the nuts for extra texture and flavor to add to your build-a-bite cheese platter. Hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, and walnuts all win our vote. Feeling extra fancy? Glaze walnuts to add to the cheese board.

What are your favorite finds on a cheese board? Find more cheese board ideas by following us @valleyfig on Pinterest.

 

Photo by Jentry

Charcuterie Plate with Dried Fig Relish

Pulling together the perfect charcuterie plate is a cinch especially with dried fig relish and these tips from Sally Pasley Vargas.

A show-stopping charcuterie platter makes a gorgeous statement for a party and it’s relatively stress free. In other words, it’s not cooking. It’s shopping!

The elements on the charcuterie plate—sliced cured meats, wedges of cheese, some pickles or olives, mustard, toasted nuts, fresh and dried fruit—pair well with something a bit tart and sweet, like this simple dried fig relish made with California Dried Figs.

The “recipe” for the charcuterie platter here is just a guideline. You can concentrate on a particular region and choose meats and cheeses from France, Italy or Spain for example, or you can be guided by what appeals to you that is available in the market. For the meats, allow 2 ounces per person for an appetizer platter, up to 5 ounces if the platter is for a meal. Choices range from pre-sliced meats such as prosciutto or Spanish ham (Serrano or Iberico), Italian dry cured beef (bresaola ), German speck and mortadella. Hard salamis such as sopressata, smoked kielbasa and capicola are also good candidates.

Offer three types of cheeses—something soft and pungent like a soft blue Castello, a triple crème Tur or Brillat-Savarin, or Brie; something firm like an aged Parmigiano; and something in between, like a Gouda or Spanish manchego. Once again, be guided by your taste and what is available, or focus on a particular region or country.

Wash all of it down with a chilled rose or sparkling Lambrusco. It’s officially summer; the living should be easy!

Charcuterie Plate with Dried Fig Relish

Course Cheese Plates
Servings 6 servings
Calories 600 kcal

Ingredients

Dried Fig Relish

  • 1 cup diced Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Dried Figs
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped green olives
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons snipped mint leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Platter

  • Dried Fig Relish
  • 12 ounces sliced, cured meat
  • 3 wedges of cheese
  • 1/2 cup toasted whole almonds
  • Small pot of mustard
  • 1/2 pound red or purple grapes
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup olives
  • 1/2 cup cornichons
  • Toasted baguette slices
  • Crackers

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, stir together the figs, olives, almonds, celery, and mint leaves.

  2. Stir in the vinegar and oil and taste. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to a small serving bowl.

  3. Arrange the dried fig relish, meat, cheese, almonds, mustard, grapes, berries, olives and cornichons on a platter. Serve with baguette and crackers

Recipe and photo by Sally Pasley Vargas