Two Delicious Preserves With Apricots And Plums


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After almost ten days of  being sick and stressed I finally managed to pick myself up and get going. Nothing is more therapeutic than cooking/backing something and as summer fruits are in abundance I picked up two of my favorites to indulge in and make preserves.  I find the market products too sweet. I love my preserves a little tart and flavorful. So I picked up fruits which were firm and tart and yet had those delicate flavours.  Some people may find a boiling pot of sugar and fruits a little too much on a hot summer noon but the aroma and the colors of summer captured in a nicely bottled preserve can cheer you up any time.

I have a weakness for apricots and once they cook, the luscious fruit tuns the color of golden summer sun and tastes fantastic. A little hard, a little bruised apricots would do too for this recipe. They need not be perfect. I use a mix of firm and soft ripe fruit to bring out the sweet and tangy flavours.

As for plums , I decided to do a cross between jam and preserve and kept the skin on the fruits. Again picked up some firm and soft mix fruit as I prefer the tart flavour. Discarded the pits for both fruits though some people crack them open and use the kernel. I don’t.

Washed fresh Apricots and Plums

Washed fresh Apricots and Plums

 

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Recipe for Apricot Preserve :

 

Ingredients :

1/2 Kg – Apricots

1 Cup Granulated Sugar (depends on sweetness of the fruits and your liking)

1/2 Cup Water

Juice of lemon – Two table-spoon

Method :

Wash the fruit carefully and rip it open in two halves. Discard the stone.

Take a bowl and place the halves in it.

Add the sugar and mix it well so that it coats the fruit completely .

Keep it covered for an hour or till the sugar dissolve a bit.

Keep a heavy bottom pan on medium flame and add the fruit mixture to it.

Add a little water to cover the fruit and bring it to boil.

Let it boil for one minute on high flame .

Keep stirring so that the mixture doesn’t burn.

Lower the flame and remove any froth or scum that forms on the top.

When the fruit starts to fall apart add juice of lemon.

Keep stirring till the mixture thickens.

Take a set test – Chill a plate in the freezer. Once you think the mixture is thick enough for the preserve consistency drop a teaspoonful on the chilled plate and place it back in the freezer. After a few minutes take it out and check , if a crinkly skin forms on THE preserve when pushed it is done otherwise boil it for another five minutes and text again.

Once done, let it cool to room temperature and then fill it in the jar. Make sure to stir it so that no air gaps are formed.
Seal it when still warm and label it when cooled.

Enjoy this delicious preserve on bagels, toasts, biscuits, parfait or just lick it from the spoon. 🙂

Plum and Apricot Preserve

Plum and Apricot Preserve

Plum Preserve Recipe :

Ingredients :

1/2 Kg Red Plums

1 Cup Granulated Sugar ( according to the sweetness of fruit and your liking)

Lemon zest – 1/2 teaspoon

Lemon Juice – 1 Table spoon

Cinnamon – 1/4 inch stick

Water – 1/2 cup ( just enough to cover the fruit)

Method :

Wash and wipe the plums.
Split them in halves and discard the stone.
Keep the skin on.
In a deep bowl layer fruit and sugar so that the plums are entirely covered.
Keep the fruit for an hour or till the sugar dissolves a bit.
Take a heavy bottom pan and pour the content into the pan along with cinnamon stick and lemon zest.
Stir it on medium flame and bring it to boil.
Let it boil on high flame for a minute or two. Keep stirring to avoid burning.
Lower the flame and let it simmer.
When the fruit softens a bit add lemon juice and remove any scum that forms on the top.
Let the mixture thicken and then do the set test as described in previous recipe.
Once the preserve sets to the right consistency remove it from heat and let it cool at room temperature.
Remove the cinnamon stick and bottle it while still warm.
Label when cool.

Use it on toasts, bagels, biscuits, parfait or in any way you like.

Hope you like these simple recipes. Do let me know your experience  if you make them.

Memory of Memories 2- The True Indian Summer


Only two long hours in intense heat and dust of summer afternoon, with strong hot dry wind, (loo as if is referred to in India), devoured not just the body but the soul too. It simply sucked life out of me. Mostly confined to the stabilized city life of 20 degrees Celsius in air-conditioned homes, offices and even public transport, the metropolitan dwellers are devoid of the true experience of summer that sweeps northern India and some other regions in the months of April to July. With coming up of malls and supermarkets, even those visits to local bazaars, bathed in sweat and grime , laden with cloth bags overflowing with groceries etc have become rare for us.

Indian summer is not romantic, short, and full of blooming flowers and mild sunshine like the English Summer nor is it anyway near to the descriptions we read in the western stories. It is a furnace that engulfs all that comes within the range of its gaping mouth, an extreme season with heat rising from the asphalt and sweltering hot winds screaming through  towns and villages like a lunatic. In big cities however the summer almost loses all its nuances of sun and shade, thirst and cooling sherbets, sweat and breeze. There are those for whom summer is cold dark air-conditioned places and others for whom it is dusty heatwaves, sweat, prickly heat and a doomed existence under the merciless sky with sun spitting fire.

In northern India summer is a season of trees. I have spent endless summers in north and everything revolves around shades of trees for a common man and the other creatures that are destined to atone for their sins under the surveillance of a cruel barren sky.

Sitting in cool comfort of my 20 degrees Celsius room and sipping a chilled beer I was suddenly filled with a longing for those summer afternoons that stretched languorously, endlessly. When life moved at slow leisurely pace, when long power cuts made us yearn for comforts, when preparations to combat the hellish summer was a meticulously planned task, when something new was invented everyday to pass those still, listless days and nights, when adults were too wary of controlling the children and afternoons were spent under makeshift huts of upside down chairs and cool white sheets, when we read and sang and played indigenous games, climbed trees, plucked fruits or simply lazed on a straw mat (chatayi) or  under the tree shade, mainly  flaming Gulmohar, Neem, Tamrind, or Molseri, like a buffalo immersed  in pond thankful that it doesn’t have to swish its tail to shoo away flies.

Even blinking an eyelid took effort so we just lay there, very still… sometimes carelessly nibbling on a twig of grass and trying to decipher the cacophony of  crows, mynas, barbets, parrots and other birds hidden in the thickly covered branches. We even had the house sparrows then.

As the day progressed the shops pulled the shutters down, streets wore an empty look, people dozed under huge  trees in parks and roundabouts. Schools had holidays and parents had one more trouble on their mind – how to keep the restless kids engaged but we found our own ways and even conjured up mischief , knowing none of the adults would lift a finger , leave alone come chasing us.

We have lost peace and joy to comfort and stress in these modern times. There was ample time to just do NOTHING and it did not matter at all. As the fragrant mango blossoms began to turn into small green fruits, we knew it was time to gear up for yet another summer. Earthen pots (ghada and surahi) were bought with utmost care to keep drinking water cold. We even had small earthen pots called kasoras for making curds and chilling kheer and phirni (Indian sweets made from rice and milk).

Khas mats were rolled out and a systematic arrangement was made for them to keep drenched with water. The sweet fragrance still intoxicates me as I think of the cool breeze that used to filter through them to fill the curtained room.

In the evenings water was sprinkled on terrace and garden which steamed angrily but eventually cooled down under our bare feet. Wooden woven charpoys would be neatly arranged in verandas or terrace as most people slept outdoors on summer nights. A big table fan would sometimes add some music to the stillness or we would lazily sway a hand pankhi (fan) made of cloth or straw, even old newspapers served as fans .

The nights were deeper, darker and full of zillion stars. It was a fairy tale that came alive outside the mosquito nets.  We would lie down wearing the minimum clothes needed and listen to the night sounds.

The fabric used in summer was usually handspun khadi, thin handloom or mulmul ( voile). I remember cursing the men and boys for having one advantage over us girls – they shed everything except their lowers and let the breeze flirt with them. It seemed unacceptable and cruel. We also wrapped wet gamcha ( thin cotton towel) on our heads and half of face when we stepped out in heat.

Summer food included everything that acted as a coolant. Fresh green coriander, mint, raw mango, coconut Chutneys, fresh salads of kakdi and cucumber, fresh chilled sherbets made from khus, lemon, phalsa, bel ( stone apple) were kept ready at all times. Even thandai, rooh afza, aam panna, Kokam sharbat, nariyal pani (coconut water) were great favourites.

At our home there was a tradition to offer petha or peda (Indian sweets) with cold water to anyone who came from outside. It protected against the excessive heat. Various raitas ( condiments made from yogurt) were included and dahi bhat (curd rice) seasoned with curry leaves was a must every day. Curd, in various forms was included in every meal.

Most of the meals ended with mangoes. Dashehree, langda, chausa, neelam, safeda… the variety was endless. Even the little chusee aam ( to be sucked) came in abundance. Fruits also included jamun (java plum), phalsa, watermelon, musk melon, loquat (Japanese Plum) , plums, apricots, peaches and pineapples. Mango eating was a ritual in itself. Mangoes were soaked in cool water in big tubs or buckets. None ate one or two of them. They were eaten with passion and abundance with juice dripping from between the fingers. we had to drink a bowlful of kachchi lassi or mix of water and cold milk to calm the heat after eating mangoes. Green raw mangoes were used for chutneys, pickles and aam panna (drink).

Burf ka gola (balls of crushed ice dripping with colorful sherbets) , faluda kulfi were a healthy substitute for ice cream which was a luxury at that time. We even had chilled phirni, custard, jelly, fruit smoothies etc as everyone had sweet tooth.

Roasted / boiled corn cobs with masala and lime or butter and spicy tamarind chutney (Sonth)were the delicacies we enjoyed in the evenings.

A staple thing for us kids was roasted wheat flour mixed with boora cheeni (kind of powdered sugar considered to be cooling) and namakpare or mathri. Sattu made of powdered barley, horse gram and other pulses was another coolant which we had to drink with salt or sugar. I began to enjoy it much later though. Sattu is made with seven  cereals, millets and pulses.

There was a certain pleasure in sweating it out to prepare these delicious things, serve and relish them with family. A pleasure mostly lost these days, with everything delivered and available at one call’s distance.

Being born in a family which has confluence of two cultures, added to the summer delight.

The only thing that I resented as a kid was to travel in DTC buses to public libraries and cultural centres. Reluctantly I would walk out of house at snail’s pace all covered to protect myself and believed that time was a conspirator who deliberately moved slower than ever but at later stages as a teenager I began to enjoy those outings. Sometimes we also went to India gate lawns and to see circus or visit old city, monuments, parks and museums etc.

I itch to go back to those days, and to the true Indian summer which is now only a memory. I am glad that I made my kids experience at least some of it by taking them to village and other places I had visited and introducing them to many of the summer rituals that not just brought joy and helped pass the endless days but also brought the family together.

Lines from a favorite song come drifting to me …..

Dil dhoodhta hai phir wohi , fursat ke raat din ….