Preservation is a cool word. Officially it means: “the process of keeping safe, unchanged or in existence.” I particularly like how cultures, in order to preserve themselves, had to preserve their food in the process. Like Jews with smoked fish or Southerners and their pickled pigs feet. It’s a cool example of great food evolving out of necessity.
Nectarine-Apricot-Ginger jam, I presume, did not evolve out of necessity. It evolved out of France. And yesterday I began the process of making it using my new Mes Confitures book. First I went to Whole Foods and bought luscious looking nectarines and apricots:
I also bought candied ginger, which is what Virginia Wolfe sends her maid to London to purchase in “The Hours”:
Candied ginger is ANOTHER preserved food; it’s what sushi-eaters developed in Japan to keep their sushi fragrant. And sweet. Incrediblby sweet.
Ok, I made that up. But isn’t candied ginger the coolest candy? Because it’s easy-sweet yet it hurts. Really burns in your mouth like a jolt of fire. A great way to start the day!
Moving on, then, we boil the nectarines for 1 minute to loosen their skin:
I employed the Barefoot Contessa’s technique for peaches where you make an X-shaped slit at the bottom of the fruit before boiling so when it comes out you can just peel the skin off. That didn’t work with the nectarines. I had to use a peeler. It was humiliating.
Now then, we reach the tumultuous part of our story. After slicing up the apricots and nectarines…
…I read her next instruction: “Squeeze the lemon on the fruit to prevent oxidization.”
If you read her ingredients there is no lemon. How am I supposed to squeeze a lemon if I don’t have a lemon!
So I did what any jam-chef in my shoes would do. I ran back to Whole Foods–sprinting all the way–to buy a lemon. I arrived there covered in sweat. I grabbed a lemon. I threw money at the cashier. I ran back: my fruit was oxidizing!
I burst through the door and squeezed lemon all over the fruit (and my cat in the process). Lolita was not happy.
Now then, the ginger:
There are many people who don’t realize that ginger looks like this in its natural state. They think the ginger they get with sushi is normal natural-state ginger. WRONG! That’s PICKLED ginger. Pickling ginger is a preservation technique developed by the Loxahachee Tribe in Florida to keep their eyelids moist.
So we chop that ginger:
Add it to the fruit, cover in tons of sugar, and add three cloves:
Now then we start cooking it:
Until the sugar melts and it starts simmering:
This is cool because the only liquid that’s in there is the fruit juice, so you know it’s going to taste right and fruity.
Pour into a bowl and refrigerate overnight:
TIME PASSES. OVERNIGHT, IN FACT. ADAM SLEEPS AND DREAMS OF A RIDING A CAMEL THROUGH A SUPERMARKET WHILE SINGING “MY SWEET LORD” BY GEORGE HARRISON. PEOPLE THROW ATKINS-RELATED PRODUCTS AT HIM. HE BECOMES A MARTYR AND A MUSICAL IS WRITTEN ABOUT HIM STARRING GEORGE WENDT. ADAM AWAKES.
Now then, we chop up the candied ginger:
Pull our fruit from the fridge:
And sterilize our jars:
First I cleaned them with anti-bacterial soap and then I put them in the 225 degree oven. I figured keeping them face down would ensure that heat could get in while I placed the lids on their bottoms, because I feared putting the lids on the rack directly would melt them.
Meanwhile, I started cooking the jam:
Her instruction is to get the jam to 221 degrees. It just wasn’t getting there. So I put the lid over it and it got there. I took a jar out of the oven. It was very hot. I immediately poured the jam into the jar, wiped the lid, sealed it up and gloated over my achievement:
Gorgeous, no? A proud achievement indeed.
And then for the failure. While I was gloating, my jam started burning:
I tried to fill the second jar but it was beyond redemption:
Now I felt like a jam loser.
So I looked at my good jam again:
I felt like a winner again.
My ego was safely preserved.