July 20, 2008

Preserving Summer

A two day process somehow makes preserving Summer's bounty a breeze. My good friend Whitney gave me this storybook of recipes, Preserving Memories: Growing Up in My Mother's Kitchen by Judy Glattstein, last Christmas along with a tin full of a delicately scented rose crabapple jelly (so divine) and a sweet and spicy apple butter.

Glattstein's book is like having a good friend in the kitchen with you. She shares her recipes with stories. Think of when you've received a recipe from a friend....It's typically sent along with a little tidbit, a memory or why it is a favorite. She adds a personal touch to everything from Peaches to Pectin.

Today I made a couple of her simple recipes, Fig Jam and Strawberry Jam. Somehow, my third time around preserving left me with no jitters. I didn't fear, chipping or breaking the jars when they tapped and danced their way around the bottom of my pot (my first time preserving I padded the inside of my pot with dish towels). I didn't worry about my missing canning vessel (Travis and I couldn't squeeze it in our car this past Christmas so it's sitting at his parents' house in Seattle). Nor did I fret about the consistency of the jam prior to canning.

I did sweat! Stirring and stirring over a bubbling vat of sugar and fruit will do that, especially when the weather is in the 90's. I must admit I'm happy to sweat for this treasure of sweet Summer.

While cleaning up, the pop pop pop of my properly sealed jars made me a believer in Glattstein's simple approach to preserving.

Both recipes are adapted Preserving Memories: Growing Up in My Mother's Kitchen by Judy Glattstein

Fig Jam
Rating: Easy
Special Instructions: If the figs are freshly picked, they will need to soak for about an hour; as described below. The jam will need to be cooked twice, standing overnight in between.
Yield: 4-6, 8oz jars

2lbs fresh figs
1-2 T baking soda
juice of 1 lemon
3 C sugar (When sugar is called for in any recipe, I always use Organic Evaporated Sugar Cane Juice. Treat it as you would granulated sugar, one-to-one.)

1) If the figs are freshly picked, they will need a preliminary step to clear them of the sticky sap. Dust the figs with a spoonful or two of baking soda and place them in a sturdy plastic bag. Fill the bag with cold water, tie it shut, and place it in a picnic cooler for about an hour. Drain, discarding the water, and rinse the figs well.

2) Trim away any stiff stems from the top of each fig. Cut them into chunks. You should have about 4 cups. Put the figs into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and mix with sugar and lemon juice.

3) Stir gently yet well. Let sit for at least 2 hours to draw out the juice.

4) Bring the mixture slowly to a boil, then simmer gently for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

5) Remove from heat and let sit overnight.

6) The following day, reheat the mixture back to a boil, then turn down the heat to a slow boil until the jam has thickened sufficiently, stirring frequently.

7) Fill and process prepared jars (If you aren't familiar with preserving, do read the safety tips that come with a box of canning jars, to properly sterilize and seal. If it's not new to you then wash, sterilize, fill, wipe, seal & bring to a boil for ONLY 5 minutes).

Strawberry Jam
(I doubled the batch and used only 3 C of sugar rather than 4, however somehow I managed to only come out with 6 8oz jars, which she says is the yield for a regular batch. Un petit mystere).

Rating: Easy
Special Instructions: This recipe takes 2 days to prepare.
Yield: Approximately 6, 8oz jars

6-8 C first-quality, just-ripe but not soft strawberries
2 C sugar

Day 1
1) Quickly rinse the strawberries by placing them in a colander, then swishing them up and down in a sink filled with cool water.

2) Hull the berries (that means use your fingers or a tweezerlike strawberry huller to pinch off the leaflike small green calyx, or cap, at the top of each berry).

3) Puree the strawberries through the coarse plate of a food mill.

4) Mix the strawberry puree with the sugar in a Dutch oven and let it sit in a cool place, covered, overnight. (I popped mine into the fridge).

Day 2
5) Juices should be flowing by morning. Put the pot over low heat. Once the strawberry and sugar puree has warmed up, raise the heat to moderate. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring all the while.

6) The puree is ready to bottle when it has thickened somewhat and a spoon dragged through the mass leaves a track (which fills in again, fairly promptly).

7) Fill and process prepared jars. (Again, check in with the safety tips on how to sterilize and proceed with preserving if this is new to you. If it's not new to you then wash, sterilize, fill, wipe, seal & bring to a boil for ONLY 5 minutes. It's amazing the first time I've only processed for 5 minutes and as I said all of my jars sealed!)

I'll leave you to it then. We still have a few months of ripe delicious fruit, so in the words of Judy Glattstein, "a simple equation to enjoy, fruit + sugar = sweet preserves + memories."

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