A few months ago I had my first jam making/canning experience and now I'm hooked. That first night, I made a batch of apricot jam and apricot curd and 3 different batches of Plum jam; 1 pureed with skins, 1 batch with no skins and 1 with chopped up plums with skins (you can see the three different hues in the photo above). I was easily up until 2am that night as I'm generally far too optimistic on how long new things in the kitchen will take me. But I went to bed that night with a clean kitchen and 20 colorful jars of gently cooling and sealing yummy goodness.
My second jam/canning experience came a week or so later when the peaches ripened up and I made peach jam and peach curd. I know what you're thinking, tree ripened peaches are so good straight up! Why would I cook them down to goo? But these peaches were special. So special that they didn't really have awesome flavor even though they were juicy and ripe. They just needed a little coaxing with some lemon juice and a touch of sugar to bring out their peachy goodness (oh and a ton of butter in the curd).
Then my third experience consisted of fixing the jam from the first jam making experience which didn't set up much, if at all. Yes, I had to fix 4 batches of jam, as thankfully by the 5th batch ,which was the peach one, I figured out that yes I do need to test how the jam sets up before canning and processing it. I went from 20 cups of basically plum juice and loose jam to about 12 cups of thick and still not too sweet spreadable jam, after I cooked them down with apple peels and cores. I didn't want to add liquid or powdered pectin, which would have been far too easy, and wanted to go with the good ol'fashioned whole food approach. One batch got renamed Plum Apple Jam, as I cooked it down with whole apples which cooked down to the point where there was no chance in pulling the pieces out. Still very plummy but with a thicker consistency.
The fourth and most recent endeavor, I was the student of my friend's mom, where she taught us how to make a simple and yummy apple sauce and her famous dilly beans. It was a great experience to learn from someone who has been preserving her own food for many years. Much more insightful then reading recipes in books and on the internets. I can't wait until I have a yard and have my own string bean plants so I can do the dilly beans again. A touch of work to make, but oh so good to eat!
All of the fruit for this canning fun came from my friend's orchard in their backyard. The main goal here is to use the preserves in their wedding desserts which I'll be making in... umm... a week. No cake, all individual bite sized sweet morsels to sweeten the couples new life together. Imagine a beautiful table piled high with flowers and a variety of sweet bites with no silverware in sight. Gorgeous I know! Then throw in the fact that the groom is allergic to milk... yup, I'm crazy but it's the kind of things I do for friends. (Don't worry, some butter will work its way into the desserts because after all the bride is NOT allergic and loves her some butter -- they will just stay well marked and far away from the groomy desserts).
Hopefully I'll remember to take pictures of the dessert making, at least on the first day before I have totally lost my mind...