Archive for May, 2013

Drawing On the Wisdom of Past Pioneers

Today is the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and in rememberance of those pioneers in my family who have passed on from this world to the next, I am “putting up”  produce for my family’s later use… using the old fashioned art-form of canning and preserving.

As I write this, I am in the process of canning the 2nd of 2 batches of apricot jam (15 1/2 pint (1 cup) jars total). A 3rd wil be made (sort of), but I ran short of apricots and lemon juice for it, so I am making that batch into Apricot-Carrot Marmalade substituting shredded carrots for the missing apricots and orange juice concentrate for the lemon juice (approx. yield 8- 1/2 pints of marmalade.)  The remainder of  can of frozen O.J. concentrate will probably get made into a sweet pepper relish made with a mixture of red, orange and yellow sweet peppers.  I wish I could say that I had grown all of the apricots, carrots and peppers in our family garden and orchard, but this time I can’t.  Our carrot crop was just planted 2 weeks ago, our pepper transplants aren’t in the ground yet and we don’t have any apricot trees that are bearing…yet.

If you’ve never tried canning your own fruits and veggies before. I highly recommend starting your canning adventures with jams and/or jellies.  Jams and Jellies, along with salsa are among the easiest canning recipes to start with.  A search at your local book store or an online book-seller like Barnes & Noble or Amazon will yield a number of useful books on canning in small batches to get you started.

As a young girl, I grew up in Oregon’s fertile Willamette Valley, with it’s many orchards, nut groves, berry and vegetable farms.  I remember many summers spent at the sides of my mother, grandmothers and aunts, as my cousins and I helped with the taskes of preparing fruits and vegetables for canning, freezing or drying.  At 4 or 5 years old, we were able to shuck corn, snap beans and stem the apples and cherries.  As we got older, we were able peel and chop some of the fruits or vegetables and later to help with the canning itself.

Appropriately for today’s post, the very first recipe I remember actually helping with the canning… learning to wash and boil the jars, mixing the fruit, sugar, lemon juice and pectin, then using the funnel to help fill the jars etc… was Apricot Jam.  I was about 9 years old and my mother had gotten a huge box of apricots from a local orchard… we had decided to make lots of apricot jam with it because it was my step-dad’s favorite jam!  Even after that huge batch of jam, we still had some apricots left and my mother pureed them and spread the puree on plastic wrap lined trays she placed in the food dehydrator to make healthier fruit leather than the high fructose corn-syrup laden kind ou buy in the store… as snacks for us kids.  I believe she also had a large box of plums at the same time and those were also turned into fruit leather and prunes.

Anyway, because my step-dad loves apricot jam so much, he’ll be recieving a portion of today’s yield for Father’s Day in a couple weeks once the jam has set.

Canning and preserving the harvest (whether you grew that produce yourself, bought it at a local orchard/farmer’s market or even purchased produce on sale in the grocerey store during “the season” for that particular kind of produce) is an art and a science handed down in time… generation to generation.  Mother to daughter to granddaughter… grandparent to grandchild… elderly neighbor to new homemaker.  If you’ve not learned this artform from one of your elders, take the time to try it this year and pass your new found knowledge down to your loved ones.  It is well worth the effort to acquire this knowledge and rest easy knowing you can provide your family with high quality, tasty and unique food creations to carry you through the winter months and through the years to come.

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