Preserves, technically, but “preserves” doesn’t rhyme with “spam.”
I was lucky enough to receive a whole lot of organically grown peaches and plums from some friends’ fruit trees and I had to come up with an idea for what to do with it before it spoiled.
I took several plums and started a plum cordial: plums, cinnamon sticks, candied ginger, lavender blossoms (from my own patio garden), all in a big gallon bottle with a whole mess of vodka I’d gotten for tincturing before I decided I like brandy better for tincturing.
When I’ve decided it’s more or less done, I’ll strain it, sweeten it to taste with a simple syrup, and then let it sit some more so the flavors can blend.
Now then, on to the preserves part.
I already had a couple of apples and some lemon juice and zest left over from making Apple Brown Betty for a 4th of July party. I blanched the peaches (so I could easily remove the skins) and peeled them, peeled the apples, and cut everything up. It took a while. When I was done I had 20 cups of fruit. Yes, 20 cups. I know jam recipes say you shouldn’t make more than 6-10 cups at a time because it won’t set right, but I decided to go for it anyway. (For anyone who has read my blog before, you may begin to see a pattern developing here.) Stuck all the fruit, some lemon juice and 10 cups of sugar in my biggest stock pot (hey, it’s less sugar than the recipe called for even!).
It looked like this:
It needed to sit in the pot for at least a couple of hours before cooking (the sugar helps draw out the juice) and I kind of got started later than I meant to… That meant that the preserve-making process went on late into the night. Doh!
Moral of this part of the story? When canning, start before 3:30 in the afternoon because once you get started cooking, you really have to go until it’s done. It was completely done (including the boiling-water process part) at 4:30am.
I enjoyed the whole process, even if I was fading a bit at 3am. Hearing the jam jars PING! as they cooled from the boiling water bath was worth it. I don’t have any fancy equipment, I heated the empty jars in a chicken fryer full of hot water (they’re short jars), lifted them in and out of the stock pot with barbecue tongs, and used a towel in the bottom of the big process pot. I actually had to wash my stock pot after filling the jars so I could use it again right away to process them. A canning funnel is now on my list of must-have kitchen equipment, but it all worked fine makeshift style.
Last night I decided to make labels for the jars, because…well, because I’m like that. I put a little something together in Illustrator and cut them into circles on speckly card stock. My friends who are designers would, I’m sure, scoff at my simple design, and they certainly could have done better and fancier. All the same, the labels are far better than Sharpie on the lid.
I enjoyed it so much that I’m making plans for more preserves! Maybe I’ll add lavender or thyme to the next batch! Maybe Drambuie, maybe whisky! Maybe I could get a booth at the Farmer’s Market and sell them for $7.50 a pop! I guess it depends on how much people like it. We’ll see…
In the meantime, it’s still fun.