Friday, February 4, 2011

Jam On

Today is my fourth day out of work due to weather-related issues. The last three days were directly related to snow, frigid temps, and road conditions. Today, with the State of Emergency school closures are related to the need to conserve gas and electricity. Luckily our house was not impacted by the limited natural gas as our wood stove is still waiting for a chimney. This project is next on our agenda. We were able to use our gas furnace and plenty of comforters to stay warm. I'm wondering if this is just the first in a series of natural-resource-related school closures. Will this become a trend in the depths of winter and, to make up the days, push school into the summer? Then the issue of school closures will persist because so many resources are needed to run the cooling systems.

While I could fret and worry about the state of our depleted natural resources, I chose instead to put some food by. The Beneficial Farms CSA had frozen figs on offer and I ordered some for the last of our pickup with them. We're down to just one CSA because the Beneficial Farms pickup day/time was not working for us. Originally out of Santa Fe, Beneficial Farms began offering shares to folks in Albuquerque a little less than a year ago. Sadly, the Albuquerque option is in a state of crisis and needs more people to sign up to be able to continue the service. Do I feel some responsibility? Sure, but it was becoming too stressful for us to manage.

Pickups are on Friday evenings at the Las Montanitas warehouse. If you are interested in supporting this CSA, click here for more information.

To make these lovely fruits into jam, I went right to  Put 'Em Up, my new favorite book on canning and preserving. The recipes are interesting and she doesn't rely on alcohol for flavor as Eugena Bone does in Well Preserved. I think Well Preserved is a fantastic resource for canners who both eat quite a bit of meat (to utilize the many recipes) and have liquor on hand. Put 'Em Up, however is more or less alcohol-free and uses unique ingredients.  Her fig jam is more than just sugar and fruit, for example. It also has balsamic vinegar, which lends an air of sophistication. Here is the finished product:

Might pick up some bleu cheese to enjoy with the jam on fresh bread.

The CSAs have also provided us with a plethora of apples, so I turned them into spicy apple chutney, also from Put 'Em Up. It smelled heavenly with the cider vinegar, brown sugar, curry, ginger and allspice simmering on the stove for nearly an hour. This is what it looked like in the pot. Here it doesn't look so appetizing, but believe me it smelled and tasted divine.

If you're thinking "isn't canning usually done in the summer?" I can tell you the benefits of canning in the middle of winter are many.
  1. It heats up the house (if I had listened to the local news and heard about the natural gas shortages, I probably would not have spent the day with the stove on and the canner boiling away, but so it goes).
  2. It adds humidity to our dry indoor climate
  3. I can avoid canning burn-out when all of the fruit and veg comes in at once. Freezing it allows me time to space out canning projects and tackle them when I can, not when I must. 
  4. I didn't sweat to death in a sweltering kitchen for hours. It was rather pleasant, really.
  5. Did I mention how much more comfortable it is to can when the outdoor temperatures are not in the 90s?
We still have blackberries, peaches and apricots packed in the freezer but I think I'll take a break from the canner for today. I'm ready to get out of the house for a bike ride and a cup of tea at the local vegetarian place. It's going to be a balmy 36 degrees today! I hope that wherever you may be, you are safe and warm.


spotty dog farm said...

We love canning outside in the summer with our big propane burner. Made in the shade. But yeah, I could see why you are canning this time of year. we have a pot of water boiling on the woodstove at all times to humidify the house. Pretty low tech stuff. But i do remember the first time we canned pickles in the kitchen it was awfully hot and humid in July in NM. Enjoy the jam.

Desert Lean-to said...

SDF-An outdoor burner sounds like a great setup. When we have a shade cover we plan to set up an outdoor kitchen to enjoy our NM nights and keep the heat outside. I'm hoping we'll have that in place this summer.