Tuesday, July 14, 2015

More Ways to Save Summer

Jerry and I will have a table at the UT Gardens Farmer's Market on Wednesday, July 15. We will be there to answer gardening questions from 4:00 to 7:00 PM. There will be food, music, and of course multiple vendors of local produce and other farm products. The market is pet and kid friendly, so why not bring everyone and join us? Free parking near the entrance to UT Gardens.

Important Note: The UT Gardens Farmer's Market always has a special table where you can leave excess produce to be donated to Second Harvest. In our case, we have a bag of cucumbers. I have made all the pickles we will use until next season, and we still have plenty coming along. This is a great way to deal with all that summer squash or whatever abundance your garden has been blessed with. Some people even buy extra vegetables from the vendors, just to donate to this worthy effort.

One thing I always look for at the summer markets is fresh local fruit. Whether it is wild blackberries, peaches, or something else, the flavor and quality of locally grown, naturally ripened fruit is impossible to obtain in fruit shipped here from California. One of the best ways to take advantage of seasonal fruit is to use the simple, time-honored technique of making preserves. Of all the sweet treats you can make from fresh fruit, preserves are the simplest. They will also provide you with the greatest number of options when using the finished product.

You will need a kitchen scale for this recipe.

Universal Recipe for Fruit Preserves

1 pound fresh fruit
12 ounces sugar

Prepare the fruit as you would for eating it fresh. That is, peel, pit or stem fruits as needed and cut larger fruits, like peaches, into bite size pieces. To prevent darkening, use a commercial product such as Fruit Fresh(TM) according to the label directions. Place the prepared fruit and the sugar in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir the fruit and sugar together, bruising the fruit slightly and allowing some juice to be released. Don't get carried away with this. You want to retain the shape of the fruit as much as possible. Set the pan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Watch carefully and regulate the heat so the mixture does not scorch. As soon as the boiling point is reached, remove the pan from the heat, cover, and allow it to cool to room temperature. Leave it sitting overnight, and do not open the lid. The following day, you should have slightly translucent fruit floating in flavored syrup. You can store the preserves in the refrigerator for a month, or can them. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fruit to half-pint canning jars. Ladle the syrup over the fruit, leaving 1/4 inch head space. (Store any additional syrup in the refrigerator. It is delicious on ice cream or to flavor whipped cream, etc.) Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp kitchen towel to ensure a good seal. Apply lids and bands and process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, or 15 minutes if you live above 1000 feet elevation.

Preserves can be used as a dessert topping, or can be mixed with other ingredients depending upon your needs. For example, peach preserves can be thickened with cornstarch paste to use as pie filling. I have made cherry preserves into a killer barbecue sauce, The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Make a batch of preserves and enjoy summer flavor all winter long.

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