Monday, January 28, 2013

Time 2 Jam

I don't care if I sound like a broken record; this chore schedule app is rocking my world. My house is in a state of manageability at nearly all times. Granted, last week, when we were all hit with a sickness virus, the house somehow turned to disaster - though considering we were all in bed for 24 hours straight, I have no idea how it got so messy - I'm beginning to wonder if Gremlins actually do exist - but in general, I've been able to keep on top of things. And this is liberating.

For instance, my bathroom sink gets cleaned nearly every day. I go to bed most nights with clean kitchen counters and an empty sink. Dishes are not piling up. Laundry is not piling up. I am probably jinxing myself by saying this, but my house feels happy.

This leaves me time to do other things that I don't normally have the chance to do, things lower on the priority list. Yesterday afternoon, Lolly and I cleared out my wardrobe. Completely. I ditched my hanging shelves and put everything on hangers. Then? I colour-coordinated them.

Today, I had Lolly's best friend Eden over and a few other girls from their nursery to celebrate Eden's birthday. It didn't take long to get the house ready for guests at all. (With Eden's mum's help) I just had to put away a few breakfast dishes, wipe down the bathroom, and hoover. That left me plenty of time to ice a cake, feed a Jaguar and have a cup of tea with my friend. Incredible!

(Let me also interject that if it weren't for my clean house last night, making this checkerboard cake would have been twice as stressful. But since I didn't have the house to worry about, I was free to concern myself only with the fact that I didn't make enough batter to make three equal sized layers and that though the recipe said bake for 30-35 minutes, it only needed 15 and therefore one of the layers was rather... crispy.)

After the party (thanks to the mums who helped me put all the toys back away), my house was clean again, and it left me with spare time (!!), something I am unaccustomed to... at least guilt-free spare time. So I made jam.

I haven't made jam in a long time; it's not something that is a high priority, and it takes a lot of time, patience and attention. But with everything clean and up to date, I could actually envision myself standing over a boiling pot of fruit with a stirring spoon. So, I made jam.

My favourite jam is apricot, and it is so easy to make. I didn't have enough apricots to make the full recipe, so I made half. For the purpose of this post though, I'll give you the ingredients for a full batch. (Does jam get measured in batches?)

Apricot Jam
1 kg fresh ripe apricots, quartered and pitted (leave skins on)
juice of 1 lemon
250ml water
1 kg caster sugar (I'm sure granulated would work just fine too)
1 spoonful of butter

Stir together the apricots, lemon juice and water in a large saucepan and slowly heat, stirring occasionally. Once at a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the fruit is soft.

Meanwhile, wash jars and sterilise by putting them in the oven for, oh, I don't know how long. I just put them in at the start of the process and take them out at the end.

Once the fruit has simmered and softened, remove from heat. You don't have to, but I like to mash it all up here with a potato masher to make the fruit bits smaller. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the spoonful of butter and return to heat, stirring until butter is melted.

Bring jam to a boil and allow it to boil rapidly for 15 minutes or so to set it. To check if it is set, you're supposed to chill a plate, spoon some jam onto it, wait a couple of minutes and then push it with your finger. If the surface wrinkles, it is set. Saying that, in all my jam-making years, I've never managed to achieve this wrinkly surface thing, so either I never let it boil long enough, or I am testing it wrong. Anyway, that's the theory.

Last, spoon jam into your warm, clean jars and close the lids tightly. To seal the jars, place the lidded jars into a saucepan of deep water (not covering the jars though) and bring to a boil. I don't know the magic number of minutes to leave boiling, I just boil for a wee while, 5-10 minutes, and then turn heat off. If you are using lids with the safety seal button, you should be able to push the button in after they have cooled a bit, and then you know they are sealed.

And voila, the yummiest apricot jam that will last for months, if left sealed. This jam won me (well, technically the Gaelic nursery) first prize at the Port Glasgow Bulb Show a few years ago. Either it's *that* good, or there were very few entries.

Either way, it's jam good on toast!

*Special tip - this jam is even awesomerly amazinger if you use both apricots AND peaches. I just didn't have any peaches. However, I can't remember if the peach skins need to be removed, it's been a long time since I made it that way. But I'm talking freaking YUM.

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