Fruit into jam

Nothing says summer to me more than a pot of boiling sugar on a hot day. And that sensation of being hot and sweaty and sticky with sugar and fruit juice. But it doesn't start like that. It starts in the cool of the morning with an intention. A resolution that this is the day* we make jam, because if we don't, the birds will finish off what's left of the apricots and the chance will be gone until next year. Unless of course I buy the fruit, which while nice is not quite the same.

I had lots of help. Grace loved being involved with fruit picking and has really enjoyed eating apricots straight from the tree. She had quite a solemness about it, as if she realised that it was a bit more special than usual. Or maybe being the fruit gourmand that she is, she was just savouring the extra freshness, that extra dimension of taste when you eat something still warm from the sun. And the apricots, although nothing special to look at have been sensational this year. When it's dry, the flavours are much more intense.

It was quite difficult to find enough fruit that hadn't been savaged by the birds. Our backyard is a bird paradise at the moment. We're getting wattle birds, little yellow finches, rainbow coloured parrots (are they lorikeets?), the usual black crows and the doves that like to scrape all the mulch of the vegie patch. Not to mention the sparrows and mynahs. So it's noisy and the fruit that was still more or less whole was often well, a bit dirty. Not to worry.

This is a view from standing on my milk crate, head in the tree. I'm quite taken with how lush the vegie garden is looking from this angle. Due to the drought most of the parks are yellow. People with lush gardens have signs saying they are using grey water. We don't really have any lawn left, just dust, hard dirt with cracks in it and some scraggly bits of dried grass.  I checked the vegie patch again today (as I do everyday) and the tomatoes and eggplants seem to be doubling in size daily. They are well mulched and don't seem to mind the dry. The last sowing of corn didn't germinate, but the early sowing is about to set ears I think. It must have got rain at a crucial point perhaps?

Anyway, we managed to pck about three kilos of fruit, which is the limit of my jam pot. And more than enough for one afternoons work. I washed all the fruit very thouroughly and it cleaned up much better than I expected. In past years I would have left fruit this dirty on the tree.

I also had to cut off quite a few blemishes. But I enjoyed sitting there listening to Anthony and Cleopatra on the telly. I managed to get most of the boiling done while Grace was having her afternoon nap. Unfortunately she awoke during a critical phase and was not happy to be excluded from the action. But boiling sugar and rampaging toddlers do not mix. So she had to hang out with Daddy for a while.

I had forgotten how tricky apricot jam an be. I used the same method as with the plum jam, but unlike with the plums, it was easy to prepare the fruit. But it's a longer boiling time, more likely to catch and burn and much, much harder to judge when it's ready. These apricots are quite low in pectin so the moment of perfection can be easily missed. If you underboil, it will be runny and too sweet. If you overboil, it will be toffeeish. I think this one might be a little overboiled and has a slightly gorpy texture, but we're all agreed that it has a good flavour.

I was very careful with the pouring into jars and only had to clean the sides of one jar. I love the sound of the cellophane cracking as it dries and tightens.

We had a friend over for a beer on New Years day and I asked him if he ate jam and then whether he preferred plum or apricot. He nominated the apricot and went home with a big jar. I think we have a few more to give away, which is nice.  I'm feeling quite proud of my jamming efforts this summer. We don't have any more of our own fruit until next summer, unless I can catch the yellow plums, which I've never bothered jamming before. I may yet score some gifts of fruit or see some in the shops that just says jam me. Or I might not. Even so no need for any shop jam at all this year, I think.

* The day was actually New Years Eve, not today which was hotter and would have been truly hellish.


Sheree said...

Yummmm....homemade jam. Looks great and probably tastes even better.

holli said...

Oh it looks wonderful!! And I love the pics leading up to the product.. Grace is just beautiful - and her joy for nature is lovely.
Happy New Year's to you and yours!!

Kel said...

your own bearing fruit trees and a lush green veggie patch!
a neighbour gave me some tubs of mint to "start my garden" - they are now dead
watering mint takes low priority when we're flat out watering ourselves and our baby trees

h&b said...

Oops - my 'tap' comment belongs with this post, not the self-portrait. Oops.
How much does your little girl resemble you ? She's gorgeous.
And I can't BELIEVE you want to boil sugar on these hottest of days .. although the gift of homemade jam to friends is worth it i'm sure..
P.S. - am I the only person in the world that doesn't eat jam ? I pity me.

suse said...

Apricot jam - my favourite!
Recently my two best friends and I (and all our partners and children) got together for our usual Christmas picnic. We had said 'no presents' this year, but I felt a token was in order, so I turned up with a bottle of homemade lemon cordial for each of them, and they in turn handed out strawberry jam, and tomato chutney. Which of course, are the very best kinds of 'no present' possible.

Janet said...

Kel, I'd be watering the trees too. We try not to water except with grey and rainwater. The established fruit trees have held up surprisingly well. Everything else is just hit and miss timing and mulching.
Suse, I agree jam is the best non present.

Janet said...

h&b, thanks, the tiles were my idea but not my handiwork. They're remanents, I think, from the seventies bathroom of my childhood. My mum is such a hoarder. I like to use things up.

VictoriaE said...

Your backyard is flippin awesome!