The days are already getting shorter. Oh, maybe not so much that we can notice right now, but there are fewer minutes of daylight than on the longest day–14 hours, 36 minutes now vs 14 hours, 41 minutes then. The sun is coming up later in the morning, that much I can tell. Summer is fleeting. Although I have bemoaned our hot temperatures, I really do prefer long, hot summer days filled with sunshine to our cold, gray days of winter when night falls quickly and the fog shrouds our valley.
One of my favorite things about summer is all the fresh fruit that is grown right here in our valley. My mother always spent the summer months canning the fruit from our trees, and I swore I would never work that hard. I would just eat it, fresh, enjoying it while it was available. However, as I get older, I remember the really good jams and jellies she would make, and those I cannot get in the market. This year I decided to try my hand at “preserving.”
In April, just as the strawberries were coming into the market here, I bought a flat at a new farmer’s market and made jam. Using my Breville juicer, I juiced half of the fruit with a few apples and boiled that with sugar, adding whole fruit later. I’m sort of opposed to packaged pectin, and found that the pectin in the apples was just right to “set” the jam. Those jars of jam have sure tasted good on toast and pancakes.
As stone fruit started coming in to the farmer’s market, I thought about apricot jam, the kind my mother made, not what you buy in the grocery store. I vaguely remembered how she would make this and realized the secret was to use overly ripe, mushy fruit. We would pick fruit in the evening and my mother would work all next day in the kitchen, canning the apricots and then peaches when they came “in.” She only canned firm, blemish-free fruit, tossing the soft pieces into a big bowl. At the end of the day she would use that fruit to make jam. So, I decided to do something similar.
I approached the stone fruit seller whom I frequent at the farmer’s market and asked if I could buy up all her mooshy apricots. She gave me a great deal on the 7 1/2 pounds I was able to cull from the bins. I juiced half of the fruit, just like I did with the strawberries, along with three apples. To this I added three cups of sugar and boiled it for about 40 minutes at which time I added the remainder of the fruit which I had pitted, and boiled for about 30 minutes.
It made 11 half pints of jam that is remarkable. Everyone who has been given a jar has come back and asked how I got it to be so good. One friend, who also cans all summer, and to whom I dedicated the pickle story, asked for the recipe. There really isn’t one. Just as I do most things, it’s random.
I got the idea to make blackberry syrup, again juicing the berries with some apples. It was a success, a small one, though, since I only made two small bottles.
My next plan is for nectarine jelly as I saw a friend’s Facebook post of a beautiful pink jelly on toast and learned that it was made from nectarines. I’m just waiting for the end of the season when the nectarines will be “mooshy.” My way of “preserving” the hot summer.