Inside this jar, two of Calabria's most iconic products - figs and licorice - have been combined to create one of our most intoxicating and esoteric items.
The Garritano family produces specialties from the bounty of local figs in Calabria. In particular, they work with the fig called Dottato, a variety of fig whose annual crop has plummeted from 650,000 tons in the 1950's to a minuscule 10,000 tons this year. Slow Food has deemed this fig a protected variety, hopefully preserving this luscious golden fig for generations to come.
One might think it'd be enough of a pleasure to taste this rare fruit in it's pure form. However, here the figs are cooked and preserved in one of Calabria's most arcane gastronomic specialties. Liquorizia, the licorice liqueur that the Garritano family uses in this product is nearly impossible to find in the US. Maybe you've had Ouzo or Pernod, but these anise liqueurs don't hold a candle to this Calabrian specialty - it's syrupy and jet black and has a deep, sultry flavor.
The figs are slowly cooked while the liqueur reduces and sweetens. As the flavors meld, the figs become swollen with smoky, bittersweet notes. These flavors make us think of coffee, stout beers and molasses. We enjoyed a few of these figs alongside an affogato of vanilla gelato and a shot of espresso. They're also a delicious garnish for a scoop of coffee ice cream. And while it's not the typical raspberries and whipped cream, we loved these over a slice of cheesecake.
The intense flavor of the figs and their syrup makes these a pretty potent digestive. We actually enjoyed them the most in lieu of an actual dessert - just a few biscotti and a glass of whiskey or dessert wine.