Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Calm Before the Apricots

Forty Pounds of apricots. Dozens of preserving jars. One water-bath canner.
                                                         Must be May!

They should arrive this weekend, and usually they are under ripe. I can do a bit of panic ripening next to a bag of apples, but most years they start to ripen after a few days at room temperature.

The plan:

12 pints apricot jam
4 1/2 pints apricot butter
Several quarts of apricot nectar
6 Pints Apricot halves in syrup
12 1/2 pints chutney
Fruit leather and jelly candies made from discarded peels from jam
A pie or two for the freezer (apricot/cherry pie is a favourite)
Anything left gets dried

I bought a few last weekend, and told the greengrocer I'd let them ripen before deciding if I would put up the first or second crop this year. Last year, the second crop turned out terribly small, and not very pretty so while it made OK jam, it wasn't great for dried fruit. The advantage of the second crop is that it is typically less expensive, but I get a really excellent price anyway, so I won't quibble over what I'd save by waiting. If the first crop is bad, sometimes it is worth waiting, but some years it is just a loss all the way around.

I've figured out what my family will use in a year. I don't bother with strawberry jam, or marmalade anymore (I'm the only one that likes marmalade anyway) and really put my attention on apricots, prune plums, and Concord grapes in the fall. We just opened the last jar of last year's apricot jam (the chutney went long ago) so I have a pretty good sense of how much we use. Of course, we don't eat 12 pints of jam a year-we do however give several jars away at Christmas. It seems odd to be planning gift giving in May, but there you have it.

Last year, I did the apricot jam in blue tinted Ball jars. The jars are nice enough to use after the jam is gone, but the effect of orange jam through blue glass is not attractive. I've learned my lesson, clear jars it is. I'm not a fan of the quilted jelly jars either, or the strange sized jars they sell these days. I prefer Ball (or Kerr) jars to the more expensive glass lid jars as they are easier for me to tell if the lids have sealed. I suppose it is a matter of familiarity-if you've always used glass lids and rubber rings, then you don't think twice about it. I'm a lid and metal ring type of bottler.

I know that not everyone water bath processes their jams and chutneys. While it is true that a shit load of sugar/vinegar will typically kill just about anything microbial, I feel better putting it through the water bath to ensure a better seal. I did all that work, so an extra fifteen minutes out of my life isn't that big of a deal. I also do a very thorough sterilisation of the jars beforehand, though I now live in a house with a dishwasher (my first in 25 years) so maybe I'll give that a try on the heat dry cycle. No, you won't get botulism from jelly, but the moulds that can grow in there are a carcinogen. True, you'd have to eat a lot to get cancer, but over a lifetime? Anyway, it may seem like overkill, but the water bath isn't going to hurt the jam any, so I do it.

I'm exhausted just typing this. I'd better go have a lie down. And a drink.



6 comments:

Sandy aka Doris the Great said...

You've made me drool all over my computer keyboard! I absolutely adore apricot jam, chutney, canned, dried, in scones, Xmas rugelach, smeared on my hands and face ... you get the picture. But here in Nova Scotia, you can't get an apricot to ripen. I've tried the ones at the supermarket, but they're pitiful! Therefore (cue sad music), I've NEVER eaten a yummy fresh apricot. Shall I send you my mailing address?

PS - I made amazing curried tuna salad last weekend that had minced dried apricots in it. So good.

Goody said...

@Sandy

It might be worth a try to stick a couple apricots in a paper sack with a few tomatoes. Apples, bananas-they all work, but the paper bag is key.

Cold, coastal climate though-you may be out of luck. On the other hand, you get fiddleheads and dulse, neither of which I can get in Nebraska.

pastcaring said...

Oh yes, you definitely deserve both a drink and a lie down - that sounds like a hell of a lot of work. I have never made either jam, marmalade (which I adore) or chutney. I know - scandalous, I'd be drummed out of the Women's Institute, if I were in it. xxx

Goody said...

I don't know, the Women's Institute is trying to attract younger women (under 90)so they might be pleased to see you.

The thing is, you either enjoy doing it, or you don't. When something is so much work, it doesn't matter if it tastes better, is less expensive, etc. I enjoy it because it is a couple hours of peace and quiet where everyone stays clear of the kitchen. Things like apricot butter and chutney can take a long time, so I sit and read, getting up to give the pot a stir once in a while. One year some stubborn quince paste had me there so long I read most of a biography of Blake. I don't typically get that much uninterrupted time, so I treasure it.

If you do decide to give marmalade a try remember to cook the hell out of the peels BEFORE you add the sugar, because once you do, it will never get any softer. I wish someone had told me that when I was learning. My teeth hurt from the memory of it!

Northern mum down South said...

I joined the WI as I thought I would be able to learn how to make jam but as yet have not had the opportunity, I know I could do lots of research on the internet but sometimes, I just like someone to show me how to do stuff. All that time alone making your fruity creations does sound appealing.

Goody said...

I thought jam was ALL the WI did (or maybe that was just the image they wanted to project).