I will never forget the first Christmas here in 2005.
We moved from Sydney nine days before Christmas and my number one priority was to unpack before my sister-in-law arrived on Christmas Eve. It is now 2011 and I still haven’t unpacked everything.
Christmas day 2005 arrived, we had opened our Christmas presents, had breakfast and were getting ready to go to church. I was feeling a bit homesick as this was the first Christmas we had had without our extended family.
Suddenly there was a knock on the kitchen door, I had no idea who it could be as I wasn’t expecting anyone. When I opened the door there was this bloke with a box of fruit under his arm. It turned out he was our neighbour from up behind us and he was bearing a box of apricots from his trees.
What a delightful, surprise.
This simple act of kindness not only cheered me up as I realised that we had moved into a wonderful area, it also sent me on a path of preserving.
That first box of apricots was made into several jars of jam, some were stewed and of course many were eaten fresh. We have generously been offered some apricots each succeeding year. Now not only do I make jam but also I make Apricot Chutney.
Alas , last year a late frost destroyed all the apricots in the district so there were non to be had. This disaster for the apricot growers turned into a bonus for us as we were invited next door to help ourselves to plums and peaches, both of which were made into jam and stewed.
I started looking around for other things that could be made into jam or generally preserved. I didn’t have to go far before I found things.
Blackberries were plentiful on our property, before we sprayed them a couple of years ago, but before they were sprayed I went out and picked, what I thought was enough to make jam and other things. The problem with blackberries is you need to pick an enormous quantity to do any thing with them, and it is a very prickly process to do so. I did manage however, to pick enough to make some jam, some blackberry pies and to also have some fresh.
When we first moved up here I was offered some strawberry plants and some raspberry canes. Which I gratefully accepted.
It has taken a few years but last summer I was able to pick enough strawberries to make two batches of Strawberry Jam, of which I am very proud.
The raspberries haven’t been so prolific, but I have a sneaking suspicion that between the magpies and me, getting up early in the morning and eating them might be the reason for the shortfall. However, I have been able to freeze quite a few raspberries and as a special treat I make them into tarts with puffed pastry.
So that first box of apricots delivered on Christmas day in 2005 has led me on a path of discovery in the kitchen.