Monday, 18 January 2010

Jam and Preserves ~ the bounty of summer fruit ~ receive it!

Making jam and preserves is easy, basically line up your jars, fruit and sugar, clean the fruit, chop it up in the way that pleases you, and cook it.  Once it's cooked to your satisfaction, pack it into really hot clean pop-top jars, screw the lids on carefully and that's it - well, pretty much.  I'll give more detailed instructions in the following article but that's the basic routine, so don't be put off by not having done it before or not having anyone to help you.  The main thing is to give it a go. It really isn't difficult.

A big motivator for me in recent years has been economy: our small income has needed to go a very long way, and I became aware of loads of fruit that was just going to waste in other people's gardens because they had more than they needed or didn't want it at all.  It's staggering how much fruit simply rots on the ground for lack of interest!  Last summer the fruit I came by for the price of polite enquiry and careful thanks included the following: gooseberries from the gardens of friends, windfall plums from the tree at the end of the property here, pears from the neighbours of my sister, and apples from the back garden of someone down the road who was going to mow up what I didn't take (!), and black boy peaches from my mothers tree.  Of the years supply of jam and preserves I put away last summer, I bought only the apricots and nectarines, and even they were local!  What bounty!

Supporting local growers was another strong motivator, even though it was only the apricots and nectarines.  Did you know that 'Oak', one of the main producers of canned apricots in this country doesn't use any New Zealand grown apricots at all?  What you buy at the supermarket will come from one of three places: China, the Mediterranean, or South Africa.  This is completely mad, when we have the best apricots in the world, sun-ripened within a hundred miles of here! Apparently there are not enough, and growers are progressively taking out apricot trees and other stone fruit and replacing them with grapevines.  This shows how vital our purchasing from local orchards is if we want to be able to continue buying New Zealand grown fruit.  I adore apricots!  Which would you rather have?

This week I priced New Zealand grown apricots at the supermarket, and they were $7 per kilo, rather a lot.  Last February I purchased them by the box at the Farmers market direct from the growers.  From memory each box contained 7 kilos, and the boxes cost $18 each, a lot less, so it helps to know when they come into season properly and to look around for the best price and / or greatest opportunity.

I include here a quick schedule of when fruit comes 'into season' - this is summertime in the Southern Hemisphere of course.
December: berry fruit, including gooseberries, currants, raspberries, etc.  Currants and gooseberries have the shortest season and you won't see them in the shops for long if at all, so if you like them cultivate a good source, which may include planting some in your own garden!
January: Plums - towards the end of it.
February: Apricots, nectarines and peaches.
March: Apples, pears and black boy peaches.

Making your own jam and preserves is not only wholesome, as these things go, it's also using what's to hand, thrifty, and absolutely delicious - enjoy it!

More of my articles about jam and preserves as well as other food articles can be found listed together via the link below:

No comments: