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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Apricot Jam

   Yesterday was National Taco Day, and since I didn't think I had anything substantial to tell you about tacos, I proceeded to prepare apples for canning apple pie filling, something I have done many, many times.
   The difference, this time, was that the canning website I use recommends hot packing apples rather than cold packing. Hmmm... I have cold packed the pie filling before and didn't have any problems, but trying to make sure I don't kill anyone with my canned foods, I cooked the pie filling. Problem with that is cooking the apples shrinks them, so I had to keep peeling and adding apples to get the full half gallon I was attempting to can.
   Why half gallon, you ask?  Well, I usually use just about two quarts per pie, with just a little bit that doesn't fit, so I figured that canning half gallons would make it easier on me. Just goes to show logic is not always what it seems.
   Why canning half gallons is so much more work, I cannot tell you, but it took me most of the afternoon to can ONE half gallon, only to find later on the internet, that the USDA no longer recommends canning half gallons, although they did not disclose the reason. Oh, bother! So not only did it seem like a lot more work, now I am running the risk of poisoning my family. Just great.
   I discussed the issue with my husband, and he said what I was thinking, "just use the half gallons first and don't can anymore." Glad we are on the same page on that issue. Luckily I have only gotten two done, one last week, and one just before I read the no-no from the USDA.
   Today, however, I am working on something I never thought I would get to work on. Homegrown apricots. Yes, you heard me right! (okay, read that right, okay?) One of the apricot trees we planted 25 years ago gave us some fruit. So it is not that this neck of the woods cannot grow stone fruit, just don't count on it and once every 25 years or so, you will be surprised!
   The fruits are not big, by any standard, but the test one proved to taste like apricots, so before they all fell off the tree (or the frost we are expecting tonight kills them), my son, the tallest, went out yesterday afternoon and picked the tree clean. Okay, so we only got 14 fruits, that's 14 more than we ever expected.
   What am I going to do with 14 small apricots? I searched and searched and finally found that the Ball® website has a calculator that allows you to put in the amount and type of fruit you have, and it tells you how much pectin and sugar to use. Who knew?
   So, I have already peeled the fruit, hey, our cockatiel likes apricot skins! Enjoy it, Buddy, you may never get that again! And as I type this my canning jars are in the water being sterilized.
   Skip ahead about two and one half hours. I got two cups of fruit from the apricots and thanks to the Ball® pectin calculator located at:
http://www.freshpreserving.com/tools/reference/pectin.aspx#  
I was able to make three 8-ounce jars of apricot jam. Scroll down after you get the calculation and they tell you what you need to make X-amount of half-pint jars. Well, I ended up with 2 cups of fruit after I cut away the bruises, so I was able to make 3 half-pints--no more half gallons for me, thank you!
   The jam came out a lighter yellow than any apricot jam or preserves I have bought, but, again, tasting the little bit that did not fit into the jars, it tasted just as good, maybe better, and knowing there are no sufites, or sulfuring agents that they use to dry apricots with, well, I am a happy camper. I brought the extra bit over for hubby to taste. He said, and I quote, "mmmm sweet!" and in my husband's language, that means "oh, yeah!"            
    Touchdown!




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