Okangan Booty

A couple of weekends ago, Jen and I took a whirlwind trip to the Okanagan. Renowned for its wine and orchard fruit, we returned with, well, more than one bottle of wine, pounds of plump, ripe cherries, and apricots we’d picked from the trees we tented under at Black Cloud Winery.

The lovely and talented Jen Hill demonstrates proper apricot-picking technique. Note the glass of wine.

The lovely and talented Jen Hill demonstrates proper apricot-picking technique. Note the glass of wine.

What to do with all of Nature’s booty?? Preserves, of course!

I feel like canning is something we’ve really lost touch with doing. I remember as a child my mom putting up tons of fruit–large one liter mason jars of cherries (her fingers stained from pitting), plums from our backyard tree, and peaches from trips to the Okanagan. And jam. My mom was a master at that.

Besides saving you oodles of cash (really?? $4 for a jar of jam??) making your own preserves gives you better control over what you’re eating: you can regulate the amount of sugar and other stuff that goes in there. Plus cooking down the fruit makes the flavors more concentrated.

I made three things from my OK booty.

Cherry Jam: I used David Lebovitz’s No Recipe Cherry Jam. Gooood.

Apricot Chutney: I wanted to do a savory application with some of my apricots, and I was inspired by Major Grey Chutney, which is made with mangoes. Not exactly sure how I’ll use this. Likely in Indian cooking, for making chicken, or just serving alongside a chickpea or lentil stew.

Apricot/Date Preserves: Remember when I made sugar-free, gluten-free date squares?? Well, I specifically mad these sugar-free so that I could use them in this recipe. There are three ingredients: apricots, dates and pectin.

The thing about canning, is that it’s really quite easy. Yeah, it’s a bit fiddly, and it takes some time, but the end result feels very rewarding.

You’ll need:

  • glass jars–I prefer the 25o ml size (thanks so much to Terry McTavish and Joan McLean, who did a garage cleanout and donated 3 boxes of them to me!!)
  • screw-on lids for each of the glass jars
  • NEW lids for each of the jars (it’s really important to not reuse sealing lids. They are only good once. A dozen costs less than $3 so suck it up and buy new ones each time)
  • A LARGE stock pot
  • Bonus & highly recommended: this home canning kit from Canadian Tire, which includes a jar lifter, a magnetic dohickey for lifting your can lids out of boiling water, and a handy funnel/jar filler.

How to:

  • Create your jam/jelly/pickles/chutney/salsa.
  • Wash all of your glass jars really well. I send mine through the dishwasher on the “hot” or sanitize cycle. If you don’t have that, wash them by hand, rinse well, and put them on a cookie sheet in a hot over for a while to sterilize them.
  • Using your funnel/jar filler or a soup ladle, fill your glass jars. Make sure you leave a 1-2 cm “headspace” between the top of your preserves and the top of the jar.
  • Wipe the edges of all the jars carefully. If there is any bits of food on the jar rims, the sealing process will be compromised.
  • Get your big stock pot and put it on the burner, filled 2/3 to 3/4 with water, and turn it on.
  • Meanwhile, get a smaller pot and fill it with a few inches of water. Put your sealing lids in there, and turn it on high. Allow the sealing lids to come to a boil, and then boil for 5 minutes.
  • Using your magnetic wand, fish the jar lids out of the boiling water, and place one on each jar, sealing side down.
  • Put the screw tops on loosely. You don’t want them to be screwed down tight.
  • Using the canning tongs, place each of your jars into the stock pot of boiling water. Do not pack. When all the jars are in, make sure that the boiling water covers them by at least an inch. Set the timer for 10 minutes.
  • Again, using canning tongs, take the jars out, and place them on the counter on a tea towel. You should immediately begin to hear “pop” noises, which means the jars are sealing.
  • Allow to cool and screw the tops on tightly, checking each jar to ensure it’s properly sealed.

And now you know what I’m giving everyone for Christmas.

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