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Monday, June 24, 2013

Fresh Apricot Preserves

If I find decent apricots on sale, I buy a bunch of them and make apricot preserves. In previous years, I've made apricot butter, but preserves are less work. They taste just as good. Jams and preserves contain a lot of sugar. That's because the sugar is a preservative. So, don't be tempted to reduce the sugar. There are low-sugar jam recipes out there and if you want to cut back on the sugar, use them. Don't tinker with the high-sugar recipes.

You can "can" it, water processing the preserves in jars. I have tended towards the lazy person's method of preserving since getting my chest freezer. I put the preserves in freezer containers and they keep just fine in the deep chill. There's nothing better than pulling out a bit of summer's golden sunshine in the middle of winter. This stuff makes a great gift too, in which case you will want to preserve it because frozen jam doesn't ship well. ;-)

Fresh Apricot Preserves
(makes about 3 ½ cups)

3 cups coarsely chopped fresh apricots, about 2 pounds
3 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Stir together all the ingredients in a large stainless steel, glass, or plastic bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 12 hours, stirring occasionally.

Scrape out the apricot mixture into a dutch oven or large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium and boil rapidly, uncovered, until mixture is thick and gels on a cold spoon.

Pour into freezer containers for long term freezer storage or put into sterilized jars and water-process for 5 minutes (15 minutes at Boulder altitude).

If you are not familiar with home canning, get yourself a good book that explains the process. This recipe came from Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. It's an excellent book for modern home cooks on preserving, both for the process and for the recipes.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Vineyard Odyssey

My dear friend John Kiger has just gotten his book on his second career as a vineyard owner published! John lives on an idyllic piece of Sonoma County with his wife Deb (my grad school roommate and one of my most wonderful friends), one very large dog (that's Francesco on the book cover), one new smaller version of Francesco, a puppy named Marco, a flock of sheep, and a few chickens. His journey to keep his grapevines healthy and producing premium wine grapes is quite a tale. I've been hearing about this on-going saga in real-time and read some of the book in advance. I heartily recommend it!

If you dream of moving to the country and owning a vineyard, or if you love wine and have an interest in learning how the front-end of this process works (because great grapes make great wine), this is a book for you.

Order the book from Amazon with this link and Deb & John get a little extra on the sale: A Vineyard Odyssey