I’ve told you before that I grew up in small-town Utah. That meant everyone was pretty self-sufficient. Most people had farms or a few chickens (or turkeys) and almost everyone had at least a small garden to grow a few vegetables. My parents had both. We also had a few fruit trees and my grandparents had a gigantic pear tree. I can’t ever eat a fresh Bartlett pear without thinking of my grandpa. He would pull at least ten bushels from that tree every year and of course we couldn’t eat them all (even though we tried hard!), so from an early age, I learned to can fruit.
Before I could use a knife, it was my job to sort out the rings and the jars. Then as I got older, I got to help straighten the fruit when it flipped over. (Mom liked all her peaches and pears to lay with the scooped-out center down.) I guess that’s because my hands were smaller than Mom’s hands and I could reach all the way down into the jar.
We made jam too. Mom and Grandma liked the plum jam the best, but I thought it was a little sour. My favorites were apricot and strawberry (Mom only let my brother eat the strawberry jam, but that’s another story for another day). We didn’t own an apricot tree then, but my dad had a relative in a nearby town with a huge one. They called us every year to drive down and pick whatever we could use. The year my sweetie and I were engaged we spent an entire afternoon several weeks before our wedding picking fruit and then a few more days making apricot jam and nectar. Yeah, we had plenty of other things to do, but for us it was just what you did in the fall…store up what you could use in the winter. It was only natural that we would raise our own family to think the same way.
So not long after we moved into our current home, my sweetie brought home a scraggly looking apricot tree and planted it on the corner of the sand pile. I was not happy with this turn of events! I told him that the fruit would drop into the sand and make a horrible mess. He said that apricot trees wouldn’t grow in our part of the valley anyway so it wouldn’t be a problem…he was so wrong! Today we picked five 5-gallon buckets of apricots and made 12 batches of jam. You can’t even tell that any fruit is missing from the tree yet. I’ll bet there are at least a dozen more buckets.
I’ve given you the recipe for apricot jam before, but I left out a few important things. First, don’t forget to invite everyone to help, regardless of age. The little boys helped pick the apricots (and eat them!) and my girls who weren’t working or in school helped cut and ultimately stir them. Second, add plenty of sugar and lots of love. And finally, don’t forget to pull out a little bread to scoop that little bit that is left in the pan. It’s warm and sticky sweet and so tasty! The kids went through half a loaf of bread that way.