Sunday, March 6, 2011

Apricot Ginger Conserve

I started canning along side my mother when I was very young. One of my favorite memories of canning was when our family lived in Elmwood Illinois. Together with mom, dad and my three older brothers we lived close to a open track of meadow that went from Elmwood all the way into Chicago. Covered in a canopy of lush trees, meadows, filled with beautiful flowers and ponds and surrounded by nature’s harvest. Almost everywhere you looked there was a huge bush of ripe black berries, gooseberries, boysenberries and wild strawberries.

When Mom decided she was going to put up some jam or jelly we'd gather several buckets or tubs and prepare for a day in the woods.  My three older brothers and I would put on our long pants and long sleeve shirts, tie the sleeves and trouser legs shut with twine. This ritual gave us some protection from the thorny bushes and helped stop bugs and snakes from climbing our legs and arms while foraging for ripe berries. 

Wearing our protective gear and looking a bit silly, the four of us would take off in search of wild berries. As we made our way to our favorite berry picking site I would listen to my older brothers talk about their week at school. The conversations were very informative for a girl my age!  I learned a lot about "boy stuff" during those hot summer days.

Finally, reaching our destination we would stand back and asses our plan of action.  The bushes were dense and filled with long thorns, they were also about 2 feet taller than me.  I had to let one of the older boys blaze a trail before it was safe enough to walk amongst the berry laden bushes. It was very tricky business. 

I would follow the boys into the thicket of  monstrous, tangled bushes eager to collect my bounty.  The most delicious berries awaited us and beckoned to be plucked from their spindly branches.  I'd find handfuls of beautifully plump black and red berries and fill my bucket to the brim.  Several berries made it into my tummy instead of the into my bucket; their juicy goodness served as a sweet treat as we worked in the hot sun.

Remember the twine around our trousers and cuffs?  Well, no matter what precautions we took we would still get bitten by chiggers, mosquitoes and spiders. On almost every occasion we would narrowly miss being struck by some sort of poisonous snake. Yikes! 

By the time we were ready to leave we were covered in scratches from the spiky bushes and dripped with perspiration from the 90 degree weather and humidity. Our faces and hands were stained from the juices that ran down our arms from fat berries that had been handled too roughly. It felt really good!

The walk home was always a little harder to manage laden down with buckets filled with fruit. With intent...I would begin to complain about my bucket being to heavy, how hot I was and how tired my feet were, as we trudged towards home.   After a few choruses of whining, one of my brothers would finally give in and offer to carry my bucket. I was then free to fall behind to pick wild flowers and search for other treasures that might present themselves along the way.

Mom was always ready for action when we walked in the door.  We would deposit our buckets in a predetermined spot in the kitchen and she would begin her dance with the berries.  Deep pots on the stove filled with boiling water, bubbling while the sound of the glass canning jars gently bobbed in the vapor pressure.

My mother would spend hours preparing and canning the juicy fruit while we  waited, exhausted from our day in the heat to take a cool shower. I almost always went first!!   Being the youngest and the only girl has it's advantages.  Feeling squeaky and clean we would compare our war wounds to see who got the deepest gash or the biggest bug bite.

The following morning we would wake to the smell of fresh brewed coffee, mom's sweet fluffy waffles and bacon.  Creamy butter and maple syrup rounded out our breakfast feast.  Like the guest honor, a jar of moms freshly made jelly sat waiting on the table, poised to be smeared onto the hot crispy waffles.   YUM!

I began canning on my own in my early 20's using several different cookbooks.

"The Household Searchlight recipe Book" was my all time favorite cookbook to use for canning and it remains my favorite to this day. I found the book while shopping for antiques in Colorado Springs, CO. I love hard bound cookbooks and this one was in great shape. It was published in 1914 and I paid $4.00. When I got the book home and began reading through it, I was so please to see the first page hand written inscription, "To Faye, Aug 26/42". Just knowing that, "Faye" used this cookbook in her kitchen so long ago made this find even more special.

For complete description and definition of Conserves, Jams and Jelly HERE

Basic Apricot Ginger Conserve Recipe
5 Cups fresh Apricots

3/4 Cup sliced Candied Ginger
1/2 Cup Orange Juice
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
5 cups cold water
2 Teaspoons Grated Orange Rind
1 Teaspoon grated Lemon Rind
2 1/4 Cups Sugar
opt. 1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 3 oz. pkg Liquid Pectin

Wash apricots and cut in half removing the pits, add water to a large heavy stock pot, combine the apricots, ginger, orange, lemon juice, grated rind and sugar, mix well and simmer slowly until tender about 35-40 minutes.

Add Pectin and cook additional 5 minutes.

Optional ingredients:
walnuts or pecans
add nuts to mixture at the end of the cooking process and  cook additional 5 minutes

1 cup of chopped dried Mango, add mango at the beginning of the cooking process to soften with other fruit.

Pour into prepared jars and process for 10-15 minutes in a water bath.

Apricot Ginger Conserve over yogurt

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  1. Rebecka - great story, when I lived in Maine I used to head into the woods to pick wild blueberries- so much fun and great memories. The conserve sounds delicious and I will definitely be trying it soon. maria

  2. Hi Maria, I think honestly think picking berries should be required for all children. lol! Probably even adults. It's very therapeutic.

    I have such fun memories of our berry picking days. I bet the berries you picked as a child in Maine were gorgeous!

    Have you ever picked blueberries? We went to a farm to get ours but it was still very memorable xo

  3. Hi Rebecka, Love reading the story about you and your brothers picking berries! It's nice to think back about the good old times! Your apricot ginger conserve looks really good...I have printed out your earlier recipe months ago, but apricot are extremely costly over here, hopefully I will be able to make this one day, I really would love to try at making it. I did make an apricot jam using dried apricots and they turned out great, I guess that's as close to apricots for me at the moment, at least!

  4. Hi Joy,

    You can use dried apricots for the conserve and it will taste just like the fresh. The only difference is the texture and that you have to add more of the dried variety to the recipe, about 1 1/2 cups.

    You can also add 1 cup dried mango and 1/2 chopped nuts to give the conserve more body. I love canning because you can adjust the recipe to the ingredients that are in season or available in your region.

    Sorry for the repetition of this post. I've been revisiting my older posts and doing some editing. I just thought some of the older posts could do with a little beefing up.

    I think I've gotten better at writing over the past year but I won't ever be known for my suburb writing skills. I just like to share my memories and hope that others will be transported back to sweet memories of their past! xoxo

  5. What a wonderful story about berry picking with your brothers. I love hearing about others childhood memories (especially food related ones). Your apricot ginger conserve looks fabulous. I have never done any serious canning, but we are going to get a fruit share this summer and I'm hoping to put some of it up.

  6. Hi Rebecka, Thank you for the tips and advice. I will be making this soon, either this weekend or next and will let you know how this turns out! You write very well, I've really enjoyed reading your childhood days, it is really charming, and I can almost picture you as the little baby sister tagging among your brothers! Are you in ponytail back then? :) Any photographs to share, would love to see a picture of this little girl! :)

  7. Joy, I only wish I had a pony tail back then. I have terrible thin hair and my mother was my barber back then. My hair suffered from crocked bangs and a very short pixie cut! I also had the pleasure of wearing hand me down boy clothes. Not too bad however, because I really liked hanging out with the boys. I was 12 years old when we lived in IL. My hair had finally grown out by then and I was well on my way to becoming a makeup and hair goddess. I'll have to see if I can conjure up a few photos...

    City Share, It's so great you're getting a food share! I was thinking about doing that myself. The company that does our local food share is organic and they have a great variety of fresh veggies and fruit. I'm looking forward to seeing what you will make with all your fresh produce!


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