Tis’ the season for handmade edible gifts! This port wine-drenched jam recipe makes both an ideal hostess gift and easy way to spruce up an impromptu holiday gathering. Taking a page straight from one of our favorite local confectioner’s new books, we’re hoping to squeeze in a batching session with a few of our favorite fruits to whip up this divine, cheese-plate ready jam in time for holiday parties.

In her new cookbook, Sweet, Valerie Gordon of LA’s Valerie Confections has gathered an entire swath of elegant, accessible treats that are perfect for anyone who dabbles in baking or preserving around this time of year. Known for creating sweets filled with fresh produce and artisan ingredients, Valerie also prides herself at simplifying the daunting tasks of both baking and canning. This port-filled jam, along with dozens of other recipes in the book, are definitely worth the effort. Learn how to win the cookbook below!

A note from Valerie… “Dark, rich, and a little boozy, this Valerie Confection jam recipe is great for holiday gifting. It’s not a jam you’re going to crave on a hot summer day, but is something to indulge in on a cold winter night with a platter of charcuterie.”

Black Mission Fig, Pear, and Port Jam
Makes six 12-ounce jars


3 1/2 lbs black mission figs, rinsed, stemmed, and sliced
2 lbs pears (3 – 4 large), peeled, cored, and finely diced
4 cups (1 lb, 12 oz) sugar
1 cup (8 oz) water
1 cup (8 oz) port
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon


Mix the figs and pears with the sugar in a large bowl. Cover and set aside for 1 hour, or macerate overnight in the refrigerator. 

Sterilize six 12-ounce canning jars and lids (see below).

Put two small ceramic plates in the freezer.

Pour the macerated fruit into a large pot and set over high heat. Cook, stirring with a large wooden spoon or heatproof silicone spatula, scraping the edges and bottom of the pot to prevent scorching, until the fruit softens and the flesh of the figs starts to appear pasty. Add the water and continue stirring until the jam comes to a high boil. If the jam bubbles up too much, lower the heat to medium. Once the bubbling subsides, after about 10 minutes, the jam will begin to thicken.
Add the port, lemon zest, and juice and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

Taste the jam for sweetness. If you want, add a little more sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, taste, and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. 

Check the set of the jam by putting a small dollop of hot jam on one of the chilled plates. Run a finger through it: if your finger leaves a track, the jam is ready; if not, continue cooking for a few minutes and repeat the test. Remove from the heat.

Pour the jam into the sterilized jars and seal with the warm lids. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or follow the canning instructions for long-term storage below.


Sterilizing and Canning Instructions

Heat the oven to 250°F.

Wash the canning jars with soap and warm water, or run them through a cycle in a dishwasher. Set the jars right side up on a baking sheet and put them in the hot oven for 15 minutes to sterilize them. 

Meanwhile, prepare a boiling-water canner, or fill a large deep pot halfway with water and bring to a low boil.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a low boil, then remove it from the heat and drop in the jar lids (and bands). Heating the lids before canning will soften the wax seal and result in a tighter seal.

Remove the jars from the oven and set them on a stable work surface. When the jam is cooked, fill the jars one at a time using a funnel or sterilized heat-resistant pitcher, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. 

Using a clean damp cloth, wipe the rims of the jars clean.

Carefully remove the lids from the small saucepan and seal the jars. If using lids and bands, put the lid on top of the jar and screw the band on until it is secure.

Using a jar lifter, carefully put the jars into the boiling-water canner (or large pot), making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch.

Place the lid on the canner (or pot) and bring the water to a full boil. Boil the jam for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat.

Lay two large dish towels on a flat surface. Using the jar lifter, carefully remove the jars from the canner (or pot) and put on the towels. Leave the jars undisturbed for at least 12 hours. Check the seals; if they’re secure, store the jars in your larder. If any seal is loose, refrigerate the jar immediately and consume the contents within the appropriate timetable.

Jams can be stored in a cool area away from direct sunlight for up to 1 year; marmalades will keep for up to 11/2 years. Once they’ve been opened, store all preserves in the refrigerator. Jams keep well for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator, marmalades for up to 2 months.

A Canning Note

Home preserving is completely safe and easy to execute, as long as you follow some basic guidelines. For more details on chemical balance, safety, and alternative canning methods, check the  USDA National Center for Home Food Preservation website. Below you’ll find the basic process for home canning. Do read through the instructions before you begin, to ensure a safe canning session.

Win the Cookbook!

We’re giving away one copy of the cookbook Sweet to a lucky reader! Simply sign-up for our newsletter and leave your comment below. Share with us about your best holiday baking memory and let the best reader comment win!

Recipe and instructions excerpted from SWEET by Valerie Gordon (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photograph by Peden + Munk.

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