Fourth Helpings

talitha4By Talitha Fraser

We live in times where the focus is on those things that divide rather than connect us but as Chappo (Peter Chapman) says “You should share communion together, it has a unique power to unite beyond words.

For many years I was a co-ordinator for a local community project called Sharing Abundance, the idea behind the project was food sustainability through food rescue and food redistribution.  If we noticed a home in our neighbourhood had produce growing, especially if they didn’t seem to be using it, we’d knock and ask if we could pick it and donate it on to people in need: through our local church foodbank and outreach projects offering a community meal. Mostly people were happy to get rid of it seeing the produce as something that attracted lots of birds and bats or made a mess on the lawn below.

We knew when we started that an outcome would be produce: jam, chutney, cordial… what I didn’t know was how well this would work as a shared vision for bringing people together.  A chain formed where people donated fruit, some people collected jars, some people picked produce, others were available for the processing and cooking days, a jar of the finished product might go back to the donor and others out to the projects for distribution.  The members of this network didn’t necessarily meet one another but often the links were special points of connection.  Connection to where our food comes from, to the seasons, to place, to the wisdom of our elders, to our neighbours, to each other. We learned about reducing waste, edible weeds, what to make with 5kg of parsley, what a loquat is and how to eat it (just bite it actually but mind the pips!). No one person had it all but the neighbourhood working together created more than the sum of its parts. Share the abundance and you will know what it is to be rich.

 

Apricot Jam

Ingredients

1kg apricots, halved and stoned, then quartered (or 1 kg of any fruit)

juice of a whole lemon (30-40ml)

1kg caster sugar

1 tsp butter (optional)

 

Method

Prepare: Wash fruit well then cut into even pieces discarding any leaves, stalks, stones, etc.

Sterilising jars

To sterilize the jars in the oven start by preheating the oven to 130 degrees Celsius/ 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the jars and the lids very thoroughly. Place the jars on a baking tray and put them in the oven for 20 minutes. In the meantime, boil the lids in a small pot full with water, drain in a colander.

Assemble: Put a saucer in the freezer to use to test the jam later. Place the apricots, lemon juice and sugar in a large non-reactive saucepan (like stainless steel or enamel). Use a large, wide pot for cooking the jam. The fruit-sugar mixture should only come one third up the sides of the pot. If you use a tall pot with a smaller diameter, the jam will need much longer until it sets.

Bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally. If you like use a potato masher to work the jam and sugar together — this releases moisture from the fruit and gets them cooking faster.

Boil the fruit for 15-20 minutes: Bring the fruit to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. The mixture will start with big, juicy bubbles and slowly progress to small, tighter bubbles as the jam gets closer to doneness. If foam forms on the top of your jam mixture move pot away from the heat and scoop it out with a spoon or add a knob of butter (about 1 tsp) to make it break down and return to low heat until butter is melted.

Know when the jam is done: After 15 mins, simply dribble some hot jam from the pot onto the frozen saucer and wait a few seconds for it to cool. Run your finger through the jam — if it makes a clear path through the jam and doesn’t fill in, then you have a good set. If setting point has not been reached, boil for a few minutes more, then test again.

Jar and store the jam: When the jam is set to your liking, remove the jam from the heat and transfer to the clean jars. Do not fill the hot jam in cold jars or the jars may shatter. Make sure that the sterilized jars are still hot when you fill them.

Use a soup ladle to fill the jars with the jam. Or pour some of the jam in a heat proof jug and then pour the jam into the jars.  Use a wet paper towel or tea towel to clean any spilled jam from around the top of the jar and immediately place the lids on top and tighten. Ideally you want to place these jars somewhere they can stay without being moved for 24 hours cooling slowly you will hear the ‘plink’ of the lids sealing as the metal contracts as the jars cool and securely seal.

24 hours later check the jars. If the lids have sealed tight and flat, store jam in a cool, dark place. If the jar lid did not seal keep it in the fridge and enjoy straight away.

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