Last summer, I hopped on what can only be described as the canning bandwagon. Home canning and preserving seemed to take the world by storm—at least that’s what all the blogs were saying. I had to join in the fun. Only one thing was stopping me: I had no idea how to can. Anything. But hey! I loved pickles! I turned to my mother, who’d been making dill pickles for years. One Saturday, we spent hours in the kitchen, chopped and filled and sanitized and uttered not the word “botulism.” And then, as we pulled the jars from their hot water bath one by one, we waited for that sometimes elusive pop, alerting us that another jar had been sealed. With one good canning session under my belt, I took things into my own kitchen. Picture a small galley-style apartment kitchen. Then picture a 15-quart canning pot, a five-quart dutch oven, an eight-quart stock pot, about 20 Mason jars, a five-pound bag of sugar, and about twelve pounds of fresh figs from my mother’s backyard tree. (That was the day my boyfriend almost left me. Happy to say we’re now engaged, despite my continued canning-in-small-kitchen escapades and pleas for backyard chickens.) I got to work early in the morning, and by mid-afternoon had quite a few pints of homemade fig preserves. Even if you’re a complete novice to canning, this is a very easy recipe to follow. The trick to safe and successful canning is simple: do your reading and follow the directions. Very. Carefully. (For beginners, I recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.) And then, after you’ve read the directions (a few times, for good measure), proceed with a little confidence and soon you’ll be that friend who gives away jars of homemade jam. And everyone will love you.* Simple Homemade Fig Preserves 15 cups pureed figs (about 11 pounds) 5 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup lemon juice Prepare the figs: rinse and trim the stems. Puree in batches with a food processor. Transfer to a large, heavy-bottomed pot (like a Dutch oven) and add sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture has reduced and gelling stage is reached. (To test for the gelling stage, try the frozen plate method: place a small plate in the freezer before you begin. To test the jam, place a small spoonful on the plate and tilt the plate. Swipe your finger through the jam and count to five. If the line reconnects before you count to five, the jam needs more time. If it does not reconnect after five seconds, you’re good to go. ) Once gelling stage is reached, add lemon juice and cook one more minute. Carefully spoon jam into sterilized jars. Wipe the rims clean and process for 15 minutes in boiling water. Don’t have 11 or 12 pounds of figs? Reduce the recipe! You can preserve as little as three pounds, or mix it with another fruit—try peaches or apricots—to beef up the recipe. *Actual results may vary.
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