Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Passing on the Traditions

Last week I taught my first canning workshop. I've been sharing what I know about preserving food with friends for years but this was my first ever paid performance and like most things I wanted to make a good impression. The workshops are part of a CSO ( Community Shared Orchard). People purchase shares of the fruit harvest in advance and receive a share every two weeks from the participating farmers. Giving people the option and ability to preserve the fruit helps everyone make use of the harvest at it's peak! The tricky part is that no one, not even the farmers can be sure what will be ready the day the shares are delivered so half the fun is picking out recipes. For the initial workshop we were expecting the last of this year's cherries and some newly ready peaches. Two days before, we were notified that we were receiving 56 lb of apricots, 26 lbs of plums and 14 lbs of blueberries. So much for cherry jam and peach salsa!

We decided to do apricots in light syrup, slow cook plum jam ( no pectin) and I found a wonderful recipe for Apricot Blueberry jam with basil. (Thanks to Kat of A Good Appetite for sharing this recipe!)

The workshops are being held in a local church that has a commercial grade kitchen. There are 14 participants signed up for the CSO so we decide to do two sessions of 7 people in each to have enough space and time for everyone to actively take part in the canning. In theory this sounded great- what actually happened was almost no one showed for the first session and and a few extras came to the second. The first session was still in full swing when the second group arrived so the was some overlap but no one seemed to mind. Thankfully we had plenty of fruit to process and most of the recipes were designed to be made in smaller batches so it all worked out in the end. I'd love to say that everything went perfectly smoothly but there were a few glitches as one would expect.

At times it was a bit chaotic trying to keep up with three recipes simultaneously. I forgot to tell people to remove the air bubbles in the first batch of apricots in syrup so they came out about 3/4 full once settled- we corrected that in successive batches and it provided a good learning moment for all. The stove we were working on wasn't quite big enough to have 4 large canning pots fit simultaneously so I opted for a tall and narrow pot to cook the plum jam in. It was a slow cook method with the pits left in and the second batch got a bit scorched. Some of the participants suggested that it tasted 'smokey' but that wasn't really what we were aiming for. As with most no pectin recipes it didn't set firmly and will be delicious on many things. But the highlight of the night was definitely the apricot blueberry jam with basil- the recipe was simple and fast, the pectin worked as it should in all 8 batches and the taste is divine.

Three different recipes was probably a bit ambitious but it did give the opportunity to demonstrate 3 different methods of preserving using a hot water bath. All in all it was a successful evening- each participant went home with 3 x 500ml jars of apricots, 2 jars ( 250ml) of each of the jams as well as some fresh fruit. The next batch of fruit arrives Aug 10 - most likely peaches. Peach chutney anyone?

All Photos courtesy of Robin Newman of Not Far From The Tree!


  1. How great! I'm glad the jam was a success!

  2. Sounds like the workshop was a success! Ooo... I'm intrigued by the Apricot Blueberry Basil Jam!

  3. That is really neat! I wish there was something similar near me. I've yet to learn how to can... I guess my grandma and aunts are stingy. :D