Saturday, September 17, 2005

my canning adventure

Growing up, we spent nearly every school holiday doing some sort of housework. My mom says I exaggerate, but that is my perogative as a formerly indentured child. My brother remembers having to clean out the garage. But I remember canning. Every Labor Day, we canned peaches. My mom would blanch them and pile them up in the sink. And then we kids would peel of the skins, slice the peaches in half, remove the pit, and place the halves tidily in the quart jars. Mom would then take over--adding the syrup, fixing the lids and placing the jars into the water bath. We canned and preserved a variety of other things (apricots, tomatoes, beans, corn, and on and on) but what I remember most is the peaches. Perhaps this is because in fifth grade, all of my friends were going to see Back to the Future on Labor Day and I had to beg--BEG--my parents to let me go. They agreed, but only after I spent the entire morning in the kitchen with the peaches. For me, peaches became the symbol of the conflict between family responsibility and independence.

This fall, for some reason, my sister Michelle and I decided that we wanted to do some canning. Michelle's mother-in-law told her that peaches were the easiest to begin with, but we refused. It is good to purge the demons of childhood (which we both agreed accounted for part of our interest in canning) but it is best to not face them directly. We agreed on fruit butters. Our first plan was to do apple, plum, and peach (baby steps!) but we quickly realized that we wouldn't have enough time. So, we scaled down our ambitions to just peach and plum.

First, we had to cook down a pulp of fruit and sugar. This took a looong time. Here is the beginning and the end of the plums.

Even though the cooking took a long time, it did not require much activity. This allowed me some time to watch parts of Spy Kids, 3-D (my niece's choice) and Ocean's Twelve--I had no idea what was going on, but Brad Pitt is pretty.

And finally, it was time to fill the bottles and begin the processing:

When our first batch was finished, we proudly called our mom. As we were talking with her, we heard the jars popping, which mom assured was a good sign of the seals actually sealing.

After all of our work (five hours from start to finish!) we only had seven half-pint jars. But, we are excessively proud of ourselves. And the butters are quite tasty, too. We thought that they might make good gifts, but after so much effort, we both decided they are too precious to give away. We are still waiting to see whether the processing worked. For now, the jars are waiting quietly on Michelle's counter. I am awaiting her call later today for the verdict.


Blogger tara said...

That is thoroughly impressive. Congratulations! Let us know how it turns out :)

7:45 PM  
Blogger Lisa B. said...

I have had the experience of canning fruit as well, though there was a long hiatus from the start to the finish (proudest moment of my early canning years: spiced nectarines). I do have a jam experience that is relevant to your recent adventure. Again, in my early years, I took a notion that making blueberry jam--a jam not commonly available in stores at that point in time--would be a great idea. So I searched out blueberries from a purveyor (not local, not seasonal . . . I was sooo clueless!). For sixteen dollars, I was able to purchase a flat of blueberries, which amounted to eight pints, I suppose. Well, cook those blueberries down into jam, you have have two and a half pints of jam, which puts you at . . . well, a bunch of money per pint of jam. Needless to say, I did not give away a single spoonful of this precious jam.

1:55 PM  
Blogger lis said...

luckily all of the jars sealed.

yes, it was not a very economic exercise. I kept telling Michelle, who was a bit dismayed at the cost and time, that purchasing said fruit butter a store would be more expensive than it was to make ourselves. But the logic of that fails, because neither of us would normally buy fruit butter.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

My mother never canned anything (that I know of), but I suspect my mother-in-law could teach me. Mr. Tart grew up with a backyard full of raspberries, so his mom made--among other things--a lot of jam. A couple of years ago, they moved, and the new owners razed the raspberry bush to put up a garage or something. Anyway, he saved one precious jar and all the childhood memories associated with it. We finally opened it up to spread on homemade biscuits (the folks at Cooks Illustrated are geniuses--I'm never going back to eating biscuits that pop out of a can!) and it was decidedly stale, even a little off. Mr. Tart however, has been doggedly eating it anyway. Moral of this story: Don't treasure your hard-won fruit butters so long that they're no longer tasty!

8:33 PM  

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