Thursday, August 12, 2010

Can I can?

I’m thinking about canning. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...It is inevitable: I grow; therefor I can. Actually, I normally just freeze stuff, since I have a disproportionate fear of botulism.

I was at my pottery class one night, which is made up of women who love dirt in all its glory, drive Subarus and wouldn’t dream of wasting anything. I was exchanging gardening triumphs and tribulations with a friend, when she mentioned her troubles with strawberry preserves. They are always runny. Hold up a minute...she didn’t eat all her pickings! She cans them. In her own words, she “likes to party like its 1799.” Naturally, she invited me to the party, because how else do you learn such a thing?

My mother tried making grape jelly once. It was a long day, and I believe her arms were purple for a long time after. The jelly was not so good, and we were glad it was her one and only attempt. Nevertheless, it is a new day, and I am so over frozen, runny tomato sauce.

Canning requires a lot of equipment, but not really, depending on whom you ask. I asked my aunt, who lives on a farm where many things are preserved in one form or another. Of course she had all the stuff, and of course she handed it down. It looked a little...loved.

Papa will have that thing clean enough for surgery in no time, because as Juniorette says, “he’s a digger, and a helper, and a fixer.” So here we go.

I’m going to start with apricot refrigerator jam because: 1. I bought a bunch of apricots at the farmer’s market before I had the proper equipment ready; 2. I won’t need to actually seal the jars; and 3. we can eat them up before bacteria grows. Stay tuned for results! (Note that I am procrastinating by writing. How often does that happen?)

Here’s my recipe, courtesy of

Apricot Refrigerator Jam

A quick and delicious use for the season’s abundance.

2½ pounds ripe apricots
3¾ C. sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Put a small plate in the freezer for testing the jam later. Peel the apricots and cut into ½-inch pieces. You should have about 6 cups. Put the apricot chunks into a medium, heavy-bottomed nonreactive pot. Stir in the sugar. Bring the apricots and sugar to a boil, lower heat to medium and boil steadily, stirring often, for 20 to 25 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. As the liquid thickens and the fruit becomes soft and translucent, start testing for consistency by putting a spoonful of jam on the chilled plate to cool down quickly. When the jam is the thickness you want, stir in the lemon juice.

Allow the jam to cool, spoon into a glass containers, and store in the fridge, sealed, for up to six months.

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