It's good to have a plan.
Here's mine for the summer: preserve lots of fruit, make pickles, move my work project forward, and master another inversion or two in yoga. I've already got tripod headstand down (or up, as the case may be).
For this blog, I'm going to document the first two. The work thing is confidential, and the yoga... well, that's my personal obsession. I'll leave it that way for now.
The fruit and pickles story starts many years ago, in a house far far away. Well, not that far-- we only lived 2 miles from where we are now. We bought the house in 1998, and soon after, met the couple who lived across the street with their young daughter. We always called them our first adult friends-- we owned a house but wow, they had a kid!
We became close friends over the years. They were always the folks you could count on. She made the curtains for our nursery when I was too pregnant (and inept) to do so. They helped us clean out the fridge on our last night in the house. Even when we moved two miles away, they were a phone call away, inviting us to a block party in the old neighborhood, or we were inviting them to a party at our house.
And then.... she got sick. Pancreatic cancer. It was not curable, and her time in chemo was awful. Mercifully, she died just six months after the diagnosis. It was awful and miserable and unfair... and a year later, it's still awful and miserable and unfair.
As she was declining, I spent time with her, talking about the things we had in common... our families, her daughter, the neighbors, and cooking. She knew the magic of preserving, and I did not. At this late date, it was not possible for her to teach me, but her passing reminded me to not delay in spending time with and learning from my friends and loved ones.
Seven weeks after her death, my BFF drove from her home in NY State to teach me how to make jam. The whole water bath thing was a mystery-- I could make the stuff and store it in fridge or freezer, but it was not shelf stable, and not giftable. That weekend, she helped me conquer the water bath... we made made plum jam, chipotle pickled carrots and jalapeno green beans. The experience was wonderful, and the fruits of our labor (pun intended) were delicious!
I used what I learned to make apple butter over the winter, gifting it to teachers and friends. In honor of the 1st anniversary of my friend's death, I made strawberry jam. The berries were picked from a local farm by me and another BFF along with our kids. I brought a jar to the family. It was sad and happy and sweet, all at the same time.
Tonight, I made my first peach jam. I used this recipe, selected because it calls for minimal sugar and no pectin. I used 8 good sized CA peaches, 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice-- tried to cut the recipe in half but miscalculated. These were cling peaches (darn!) and a real pain to pit! Learned my lesson-- freestone next time. They rested for 2 hours after slicing (macerating, for those of you in the know); after five minutes on the stove I added 1 tsp fresh minced ginger and 1/2 cinnamon. I'm proud to say that the latter was my son's idea-- he smelled the peaches as they cooked and made the suggestion. When the jam cooled he got a taste of the finished product... he heartily approved, as did I!
|Cooking the peaches... it took about 15 minutes for my almost-half recipe.|
This eight peach recipe yielded 4 full 8oz jars. I put 3 through the water bath and put the remaining jar in the fridge. Finally bought a batch of these reusable lids, so putting the excess in the fridge is easy and I can use the lid another time.
This was a test of the peach jam (low sugar, no pectin) recipe. When local peaches are ripe, I intend to pick a ton, brush them with maple syrup, then grill them. Some will be eaten hot off the grill, and the rest will be preserved with their smoky sweet flavor intact. I think both will be heaven.
Stay tuned for more preserving goodness!