I don't want to alarm you, but winter is just around the corner. If you're considering an attempt at the 100-mile diet, now is the time to prepare, because those winter months can be awfully daunting. Being Canadian means long, cold winters, with little to no fresh produce available. Usually, during the winter months, I would rely on our neighbours to the south for fresh produce, but this year I'm preparing ahead of time so that I can enjoy local, organic produce all winter long.There are a number of different ways you can preserve food; freezing, drying, canning, and pickling. Here is a list of the things that I have preserved this year, so far: Apricots, beans (yellow and green), blueberries, brocolli, carrots, cauliflower, peas, peaches, peppers, pickles, raspberries, soups, strawberries, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Preservation methods for each to follow...
This year I tried my hand at canning and apricots proved to be the easiest to can. I used 500 ml jars, since 1 L seemed too big and 250 ml seemed too small. Apricots will be delicious with some homemade vanilla yogurt in the winter. In case anyone's curious to know, I purchased my apricots at the Guelph Farmers Market for $10 a basket. The apricots were locally grown, and although I clearly remember telling myself that I would not forget the name of the farm that grew them, I have clear forgotten. Sorry.
To begin, wash the apricots thoroughly. Then cut them in half and pit them, but do not peel. Apricots are SO easy to handle. The pit practically falls out of the fruit, and since you don't have to peel them, the process is much easier and less messy.
Place the fruit in a colour protection solution. You can buy this in a sachet from the pickling section of your local grocery store or, like me, you can come up with a DIY home solution. I mix a 1/4 cup of lemon juice per 4 cups of water. This helps preserve the natural colour of the fruit, otherwise they would turn brown during the canning process. I tried to tell myself that I wouldn't actually mind this, but in all honesty, presentation is just as important as flavour. I couldn't proudly serve brown apricots to my friends. :)
Apricots should be preserved in a medium syrup, otherwise they'll be tart. A medium syrup requires more sugar than I've ever used in anything before! Add 3 cups of sugar to 5 cups of water. Bring the solution to a boil and then leave it to barely simmer on the stove. You don't want to boil it too long or the solution will reduce to a thick mixture of sugary goo.
Boil the empty 500 ml jars for about 5-10 mins to remove any bacteria. Pack the jar full of apricots while still hot. Pack apricots on top of each other, cavity side down. I found that the apricots naturally wanted to land on the opposite side than I wanted them to, so I slid them down a knife as a guide. Once the jar is packed full, pour the hot syrup over the top, leaving enough space at the top... about a half inch. Use a wooden spoon (non-metallic kitchen utensil) to gently coax air bubbles out of hiding. Then top with a seal that has been kept in a pot of hot, but not boiling, water. Put on the screw cap, but do not over tighten.
Boil jars in a large pot of water for 25 minutes,
making sure that the water covers the lids. When done, carefully remove without moving contents, towel off excess liquid, and store in a cool, dry place overnnight. Label with contents and date. Boiling times for 1 L jars are 30 mins. Enjoy!