Preserving the Harvest — Fruit in Bottles

Although the nearly-lost art of preserving food in jars seems to be in revival on the web these days, almost everyone will tell you about “small-batch” food preservation.  Many recipes make 2 or 3 half pints of whatever wonderful, tasty food they are preserving.  While that might be great for a couple or a family with one child (who doesn’t eat!), for my family of 6, I hit more on large batch food preservation.  This is one of the reasons we don’t school through the summer months — unless you call harvesting and preserving school (which I do.)  It is too difficult to teach math and stand over a boiling pot!

This is the season for that canning, as we call it, although we don’t use cans.  As my mother taught me, and as her mother and mother-in-law taught her, I look for the best fruits and the least expensive price and put as many of them in jars for the winter as I am physically able.  My recipes come mainly from the Ball Blue Book, which as I look for it on Amazon, doesn’t seem to be blue at all.  Mostly great fruit with a very light sugar syrup and processing, this fruit helps us through the winter when fruit that is available is far from local and not in the best shape.

Two weeks ago, I bottled 13 quart jars of sour cherries.  Originally, I bottled cherries for pies and cobbles, and some of them still get eaten that way.  But most of them go straight under vanilla yogurt and granola and are gobbled up in the winter months. I bought some strawberries to make 2 batches of jam, because we opened the last jar from last year that morning.  I also thawed some plum juice from last year and made two batches of jam while the kitchen floor was already sticky.

That same weekend, I found an apricot tree next to a vacant house which was loaded with fruit.  Usually, apricots are a fruit which people will nearly pay you to pick to keep the squishy fruit from falling on their lawns.  But this year, people wanted us to buy their apricots by the bushel(!).  They were even advertising apricots as organic (I have never heard of anyone spraying apricots– they hardly ever get bugs.)  So I was delighted to find this tree at the same time the management company truck pulled up and was able to give me authorization to pick as much as I liked.  In about 20 minutes, we picked enough apricots to eat ourselves sick, make apricot kuchen, apricot jam, and bottle 14 pints of apricots.  I would have liked to do more bottled, but they weren’t quite ripe and when they did ripen I was too busy with other work to do them.  However, I did freeze apricot puree and make this wonderful apricot nut bread recipe I will share with you!

Apricot Nut Bread (especially wonderful spread with homemade apricot jam)

Makes 1 loaf

2 cups whole wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter

2 eggs

1 cup pureed apricots

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Cream together the sugar and butter.  Add eggs, apricots and lemon juice.  Beat until fluffy, then add dry ingredients and nuts.  Bake in a greased 9 inch loaf pan 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool at least 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then remove from pan and cool completely before cutting.  To make this bread extra special, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of sugar across the top of the loaf about 10 minutes before the ending of cooking.

This week was blackberry week. Mom and I went and picked blackberries at a local patch.  10 pounds of blackberries for $20 is a score!  I made blackberry cobbler, blackberry smoothies and blackberry jam.  Jam is the easiest thing in the world to make if you use pectin and the recipe in the pectin box.  While other recipes are certainly unusual flavors, my family always enjoys the traditional fruit and sugar the best.

Since I have zucchini literally running out my ears, I think today is zucchini relish day.  Anyone for a hot dog?  Are you enjoying the summer harvest yet in your area?  What are you doing to save some of those great flavors for winter time?  Please leave me a comment.

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