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Fruit Frenzy

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Summer is coming to an end, and it seems that the fruit has been jumping into my kitchen. The stone fruits have been outstanding, and when Tougas Farm had a pick-your-own special last weekend, we came home with 40 pounds of dead-ripe fruit. That's a hella lot of peaches and nectarines.

So, I dragged my ancient canning equipment upstairs. It's been years since I've canned. I had to consult some books and websites to remember the process and see what guidelines are being recommended these days. I also wanted to use much, much less sugar than traditional recipes call for. Commercial pectin needs a ton of sugar, sometimes almost as much in weight as there is fruit in a recipe! Thank goodness there's now a No Sugar Needed pectin, which I've had a lot of success with. I've been using as little pectin as possible, and none in long-simmered jams when using fruit with a lot of natural pectin. As an example, I made a blueberry-lemon jam with 8 cups of berries and 11/2 cups of sugar, instead of the 6 called for in old recipes. The jam is pleasantly tart, more like fruit than sugar.


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Ahem.


The farmstands and produce stores have all had bumper crops, and when a whole flat of figs was $5, blueberries on sale by the 2-quart box, and an enormous bag of 20 pounds of slightly dinged apples another $8, well. Things got a bit out of hand. Needless to say, everyone is getting preserves this December.


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I'm terrified of poisoning someone with a beautiful jar of peaches, so I tend to be very conservative about acidity levels, sterilization, and a proper seal. I know plenty of people who can blithely throw some fruit into a jar, pour in hot syrup, clamp on a lid, give it a shake and pronounce it done, but I'm not one of them. (My mother-in-law doesn't even use proper canning lids--just recycled baby food bottles. *shudder* I throw out her jam. Shhh. Don't tell.)


On the other hand, it's not rocket science, people. If you haven't attempted canning before, just get yourself a copy of The Ball Blue Book or look at one of the Extension Service websites; or spend an afternoon in a canner's kitchen. My friend Kerry (where are you, Kerry? We lost track after you went to grad school) taught me more than 20 years ago.

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So far I've made brandied peaches, peach-ginger conserve, fig-ginger-lemon jam, blueberry-peach jam, jalapeno jam, jalapeno-peach jam, blueberry-lemon jam, gingered peach halves, peach chutney, raspberry-blueberry-cassis jam, and raspberry-peach jam. I have cooked-down apples waiting to be sieved then slow-simmered into apple butter, and a bucket of sour damson plums on the counter waiting for ripening and inspiration. I tend to like the zany combinations, something to give a jolt of flavor on a toasted pita in the morning, or to top plain yogurt and fresh fruit, or to go on a cheese platter or in a glaze or sauce.

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Now, how to flavor those sour Damson plums? And my box of tomatoes is coming Thursday.

Comments (6)

Wow, I'm impressed. I've thought about canning but never gotten around to it, though I usually do blanch and freeze some summer veggies every year. LOL about your mother-in-law (I'd throw it out too. I remember the botulism scare vividly!).

Amy, it all looks wonderful!

I have never canned anything, but I think I may try this year. We are going to be overwhelmed with tomatoes in the next month, so I am researching recipes to do something with them.

Janice:

Beautiful, Amy. I love canning too. Apple butter is my favorite, especially when the apples are cooked in fresh cider.

jan:

I just have to post my complete admiration. (that kinda sounds like one of the spam comments but I really mean it.)

Looks wonderful - you wouldn't happen to have a recipe for tomatillo salsa there would you? LOL

Jan - can't be spam as the absence of spelling and grammar mistakes would indicate a legitimate comment rather than spam. *smile*

Andrea:

Amy,
Great post! Congratulations on the "fruits" of your labor. Love the photos! PS - not a word to your MIL!

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