Four and a half pounds of Blenheims from Bella Flora Farm prepared by the recipe posted on 18 June 2009 yielded just over four pints of jam.
2 x pints
2 x 8 oz
5 x 4 oz
I cooked the fruit 25 minutes—a bit longer than for batch #1 —for a slightly thicker jam than before. I'd still call it a "spoon jam" rather than a "fork jam" because although it mounds in a spoon, it oozes slowly through the tines of a fork. The further reduction didn't hurt the flavor as far as I can tell, and there's no hint of an overcooked or caramelized taste.
I'll do apricot butter next and start thinking about cucumber pickles.
You know the Proust Questionnaire on the last page of Vanity Fair? One question is "Which words or phrases do you most overuse?" My response would be: "this is my new favorite thing." As much as I say it, though, the sentiment holds up since new enthusiasms don't have to cancel out old; the list of favorite things keeps expanding. Today my new favorite thing is green-skinned plum jam with mint.
For a while now, I've been wanting to make mint jelly even though I don't particularly like it. Or at least I don't like the candy-sweet, food-color-and-gelatin stuff you can buy. But I do love lamb, and I thought it would be worth trying to develop a good mint jelly to serve as its traditional accompaniment. There are options. One could make a jelly from pectin-rich green apples or lemon rinds and infuse it with fresh mint. Or one could punt on first principals—no commercial pectin—and stir up a batch with Sure-Gel. But neither of those ideas moved me.
Last year after making my first batch of Blenheim apricot jam, I took a jar with me when I went to stay with Linda and Alan in Joshua Tree. "Luscious," said Linda when she tasted it. So is this year's first batch. Apricots are the only fruit besides quince that's better cooked than raw, and this jam is so good you'll want to burst into tears.
On another front, it turns out the "wild plums" I got at the market the other day are mirabelles, hardly larger than Bing cherries and with a lovely green-yellow color. The ripest ones have started to blush pink. I pitted them all tonight—a tedious hour of work with a knife—along with the greengage plums I got at the same stand. More jamming tomorrow, and the recipe to follow.
It was a crap afternoon redeemed by an evening of jamming; I put up the Blenheim apricots from the yesterday's market trip. It's the most pleasurable kitchen work there is.
I'll say, though, that it's easy to see why this wonderful fruit fell out of favor with commercial growers. Yesterday morning at the market, I picked out the firmest apricots on the table. By this morning they were getting soft, and five or six were already too far gone to cook. By tomorrow they all would have been mush—after just two days off the tree. Blenheims are too perishable to survive the refrigerated trip east of the Sierra, which is a sad loss to the rest of the country because they are gorgeous to handle and aromatic like something from a pasha's walled garden.
The market report from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market:
I had only enough pocket change for 30 minutes on the meter, so it was a mad dash to find Blenheims. I did and got 5 pounds, as well as 5 pounds of tiny green wild plums about the size marbles. Then I swooped in to take the last couple pounds of Santa Rosa plums from the stone fruit lady, only to find a whole table full of them further down the lane. I'll buy more next week. Elsewhere there were lots of great French filet beans for making Dilly Beans, and I cast my eye on yellow beets, which I'd like to pickle in cider vinegar with fresh ginger —but I didn't have time to bother today. Pickling cucumbers are also rampant. But all that stuff will be around. I've got Blenheims to put up.
The plan for tonight was to launch into the topic of strawberries, a natural starting place for this conversation about home canning since it's how the whole thing got started for me. Last spring I left the farmer's market with a flat of strawberries and no idea how I could possibly eat them all before they went bad. Then I thought about Gran's strawberry jam and wondered why, although I was a confident cook, I had never canned anything. And here we are.