(Apricot & Nutmeg Preserves)
(Poached Apricots & Cherries with Cinnamon)
(Pickled Cherries with Chinese 5-Spice Blend)
(Poached Apricots & Cherries with Cloves)
Those of you that know me personally are all too well aware that I've been engaged in a love affair with the state of Washington for some time. From its snow-capped peaks to its rugged coastline, from its temperate rain forests to its profusion of islands, the state has long called to me with its siren song.
Imagine, then, my profound joy at receiving an e-mail from Annie, a representative for the Washington State Fruit Commission, asking if I'd be interested in serving as a "Can-basssador" for the state's soft fruits. Would I like to receive free, ripe, fresh, delicious, succulent fruits to render into jars of preserved bliss? Is the pope catholic? You bet I'd like to enjoy a bit of Washington's finest!
And so, within a week, I was the proud recipient of a box containing 30 apricots and 7 1/2 pounds of sweet Rainier cherries. With fresh fruit, in the summer, in an un-airconditioned house, you've got to shake a leg. No dilly-dallying, waiting around for a day when you "feel" like canning; you make that feeling happen. As such, I set about on several marathon early morning canning sessions this week. The above delicacies are the end result of my sweaty labor of love.
In the final analysis, the fine fruits of Washington state offered to me resulted in: 4 pints of pickled cherries with homemade Chinese 5-spice (I used Leena's recipe, but made my own Chinese 5-spice blend, the information for which can be found in the "Kumquat 5-Spice Marmalade" in my "Canning & Preserving" book), 4 pints of poached apricots & cherries with whole spices (including cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves), and 6 half-pints of apricot preserves with freshly ground nutmeg. I've got a large, pitted and stemmed bag of cherries waiting in the freezer at home (couldn't get to them before leaving for vacation on Friday and I'm still not yet certain if I'll turn them into homemade maraschino cherries, make them into cherry marmalade, or just dump them into a big cherry pie). I'm SO looking forward to pairing up these delicious delicacies during the approaching cooler months with the likes of baked brie, orange polenta cake, and hot buttered toast.
I invite you to take a peek at Sweet Preservation, the website developed by the organization. Not only is it rife with helpful canning tips, it's got a number of gorgeous downloadable canning labels. All of the labels were created by Etsy crafters, each designed with a fresh, modern feel for today's canning enthusiast (I especially love the yearly calender label-genius idea!).
So, if you love to can, and you love summer stone fruits, and you come upon a bounty of Washington's cherries, apricots, peaches, or plums, I highly encourage you to grab them up and put time in a bottle, made possible through the gentle alchemy of canning. I promise you, it's worth the hot-kitchen-in-the-summertime effort, offering up the sweetest reward.