In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, vanilla pod and scrapings, salt and milk. Heat over a medium flame, stirring frequently, until the milk is steamy-hot. Meanwhile, pour the cream into a large, heat-proof bowl and place a strainer over the top. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and place the bowl on a damp towel.
When the milk is hot, whisk it slowly into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so as not to curdle the eggs. Return the mixture to the pot and cook over a low flame, stirring constantly with a flexible heat-proof spatula, until the custard begins to "stick" (form a film othe bottom of the pot and/or registers 170ºF on an instant-read thermometer. Immediately pour the custard through the sieve and into the cold cream to stop the cooking. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill until very cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day. (Alternatively, chill the mixture over an ice bath for quicker cooling.)
When the base is cold, churn it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Place a large loaf pan in the freezer to chill. When the ice cream has churned, scrape 1/3 of the ice cream into the pan. Dot with 1/3 of the fig puree. Repeat with the remaining ice cream and fig butter, working quickly so the ice cream doesn't melt, then use a chopstick or knife to swirl the top layer. Freeze until hard, 2 hours and up to several weeks. For longer storage, press a piece of parchment paper to the surface of the ice cream to discourage ice crystals from forming and wrap tightly.
For the fig butter:
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the chopped figs, sugar, whiskey, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture is thick and jammy, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Let cool slightly, then run the fig mixture through a food mill to remove the skins. Chill airtight until needed, up to 1 week.
If you don't have smoked sugar on hand, feel free to make this with a raw sugar such as demerara or turbinado. (Brown sugar may be too acidic and could make the ice cream base curdle, so I don't recommend it here).Fig Butter: Black missions make a pretty purple fig butter with a rich texture, but any variety of fig should work. If you don't have a food mill, you can pulse the cooked figs in a food processor; it will have a slightly coarser texture. Makes about 1 cup.Nutritional values are based on one of eight servings.