Saturday, June 19, 2010

Canning Apricots

When I found myself with two sinks full of very tasty apricots, I decided to make some jelly...or preserves or jam or conserves--something like that. First, I cleaned, cut and pitted. Then I tried to find a good recipe. Since my cookbooks all had widely varying ideas, I consulted the ultimate authority: the internet. There I found more recipes--no two the same. Some said to mash them and boil for a minute, others to dice them and boil them for twenty five. Some measured the apricots by cups, others by pounds. All required a lot of sugar, but even there the recipes didn't agree on the amount. It seemed odd to me that warnings on every recipe advised following it exactly or....YOUR JARS WON'T SEAL.
Well, I had no way of measuring the already boiling apricots, so I just guessed at all of it, adding stuff here and there. While I was careful to properly clean the jars and handle the lids, I wasn't particularly careful about all the other instructions.
Guess what? They all sealed anyway, and I now have 13 pints of wonderful apricot jam, and two quarts of apricot syrup for waffles. It all tasted wonderful...SO I'm writing my own recipe, of course, to add to the mish-mash on the internet.

Step One--Pick good apricots. If they taste bitter when you eat them fresh, they will make nasty tasting jelly.

Step Two--Clean the apricots in cool water to wash off ants and such. Cut off really bad spots and take the seeds out.

Step Three--Heap a large pan full of apricots and set it on the stove. (One site said don't use an aluminum pan because the acid would react and make the jelly taste metallic. I'm not sure it that's true, but I used a steel pan, just in case.) Add a half cup of water or less if you want to, put the lid on and cook it on low until it boils. Stir it a lot. Mash the apricots with a masher if you feel like it. It'll give you something to do.

Step Four--When the apricots boil, add about four pounds of sugar. Stir until you see that they are thickening somewhat. Let them keep boiling with the lid off so you can watch.

Step Five--add some lemon juice, or condensed orange juice from a frozen concentrate, or both if you want to, or neither. It doesn't matter really.

Step Six--add some vanilla or almond extract, or a little cinnamon, or all of these or none.

Step Seven--Skim off some of liquid on top, particularly if you seem to have a lot. Save this for waffle syrup. It's really good and if you have enough, can a jar of it too.

Step Eight--Add one or two boxes or bags of pectin (Sure-jell or another brand). (If it's the powdered kind, dissolve it first in a little water or juice from the fruit) (Or just pour it into the pot and stir until it's all melted--whatever.)

Step Nine--Stir, Stir, Stir until it reaches a jam-like consistency. Don't let it scorch!

Step Ten--Pour it into the sterilized (or just washed in the dishwasher) jars, being careful to fill them almost full--leave about 1/4 inch only--put the lids on, tighten the rings.

Step Eleven--Turn all the jars upside down for five minutes. (One of the recipes warned me that there would be dire consequences if I skipped this so I dutifully turned all mine over and, sure enough, they all sealed--but so did the syrup, and I hadn't turned it over.)

Step Twelve--Turn all the jars upright, listen for a faint pop, watch the jar lids to make sure the convex bubble in the lid turns concave, tighten the rings again. Label the fruit. Take a picture. Go write a blog entry.

Mim's Tower Sculpture

She made this all by herself using "found" materials. No, of course she is not weird. she is just my grandchild. We love art in this family. Besides, it has a lovely sense of balance.

Odd things # 9 High Voltage Detention Camp

"Round them up. Gotta keep those transformers in place. Extra-terrestrials, I suspect. Make them form lines. Don't get close to the antennae!"

Friday, June 18, 2010

Giant Lightning Rods

For several years during high school and college, Elijah worked at the local Farmers' Cooperative, more commonly referred to as the Co-op. Some of the time he was in and on top of the grain elevators, which were accessed with ladders and dangerous, grated "man-lift" elevators; in and out of boot pits, which had to been cleaned of all last year's rotting wheat before the new wheat could take its place; and in and out of storage bins, where the temperatures could reach 130 degrees, and frequently did. After harvest began every year, however, his job was to stand on top of these freight cars and direct the grain-filled, slanting spout to a trap door in their roofs. Cloudless days were trying, because of the unrelenting heat. Cloudy days were better, unless, of course a storm was brewing in the West. On one particular day, I watched the clouds roll in and listened to the storm warnings with trepidation. Knowing that the Co-op guys would work every minute until the storm actually hit--because grain is precious and the farmers were almost frantic about getting it into a dry place before the rain--I did what any self-respecting mom would do and called my son at work to make sure his supervisor would properly value his life. He was standing on top of the car, as usual.
"Don't worry, Mom", he said, "We see the storm coming. I'm sure we'll close down when it gets close."
Of course I didn't stop worrying. In fact, I worried more. Short of driving up there and demanding that they call off work, what could I do? Pray, of course. Doesn't every mom?
About thirty minutes later, the rain began to pour.
He called from the office.
"Hey, Mom, I almost got struck by lightning!"
"Are you ok?"
"Now I am, but it was pretty impressive. First this huge cloud came streaking in just like a bird flying over us. All of a sudden my head felt funny. I reached my hand over my head and felt that all my hair was standing straight up. So I turned loose of the spout and dropped flat to the roof of the car. Then I crawled to the edge and jumped off. It hit right behind me and the thunder was really loud."
"But you're ok now? You went inside, right?"
"Well, I crawled back up, raised the sheath on the spout, pushed it off and lowered the rope so they could put it back where it goes."
"You what?"
"Well, I couldn't leave it in the train like that. By that time it was pouring rain."
"No kidding."
"Aw. Don't worry, Mom. I'm fine now."
"You're not going back up there in this?"
"No. We're just finishing up some things and I'll be home."
And he was.
And he doesn't understand why I worry so much.
It's a mom thing.

Oddity #8-Melting Staircase

Someone left the water running and now the staircase is melting!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oddity #7 A Tragic Day at the Track

It was the big race. Everyone came from miles around and camped beside the track. Bike and scooter companies provided water to the competitors and boosted morale to a fever pitch. Loud music couldn't drown the cheering of the crowd. Suddenly tragedy struck: A bike and scooter collided. The dreadful impact caused them to fly into the stands and hit a fan!

Detective Wuggins first Case

Odd Things #6 Which is it?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Odd Things # 5--Beware of the Dog

This is actually a sad picture, because the crosses were put there after a traffic accident killed four people near here, but--next to the "beware of the dog" sign on the fence--it looks like quite a serious warning against trespass.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Odd Things #4: Decorated Box Car

Where do the homeless graffiti artists who live under railroad bridges get the detailing equipment to paint this way? And what does it mean? Is it a: "Romeo loves Juliet" or simply some Sudanese obscenity that unsuspecting photography buffs post on their blogs?