Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mom's Apricot Jam

Combine  4 cups fruit
                 3 cups sugar

Let sit 2 hrs.
Cook till it gets thick.

That's all I have written on my paper.  Define "thick", you may say.  Well, according to my mom, you cook it till the thin liquid just begins to thicken into syrup.  The test:  you put a tablespoon of the golden liquid onto a plate and put that into the fridge for oh- just the right amount of time.  And when you take it out, it slides ever so slowly across the plate rather than running.  Last year I made the jam, and obviously boiled it far too long.  It completely lost its golden color in the brownness of thick syrup.  I was determined that that was not going to happen this year. 
One bowl had sat for 2 hours, and one for 3 hours when I called Mom. 
What do you think, Mom?  Would it work if I just let it sit overnight? 
Oh no - that would be far too long. 
What about if I mix the 2 hour batch with the 3 hour batch? 
Well of course that would be fine. 

How fine do you cut the fruit? 
Really quite fine.
How often do you stir? 
Often enough, you know.

Then there's the foam.  You have to skim the foam off the pot of simmering apricots and sugar or the jars don't seal.  And the jar with the skimmed off foam is the best - you put that onto fresh bread and it all melts into your mouth. 

Three of the four jars have popped as I've been writing.  Sweet sound of success :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

as far as the estuary

In our orientation to our home on Vancouver Island for the week, our host told us that the shoreline below the cottages was ours to explore. There was a little path down to the ocean, and we should feel free to explore as far as the estuary.  He threw his arm in a wide gesture southward and shoreward.
"You must explore the estuary."

I tried to remember what an estuary was as we clambered down the steep and winding path, sometimes aided by creatively constructed wooden steps and roped rails to the shore.  Recalling grade eight geography lessons with maps of peninsulas and islands and isthmases and things you must label and define, I thought it might be a place where fresh water runs into the ocean.

But a definition does not bring you to this place ...
where currents cross back on themselves,
white sails, carried on currents
of river, ocean and wind;
shoreline covered with down,
lifted by a breeze from the rocks and carried high or set down onto one of the currents.

The near bank was dominated by the river, running steadily toward the ocean.
The tides on the far banks overwhelmed the river, carrying the feathers back inland, lifting the kelp and weeds to give homes to crab and minnow. 

At first I hoped the feathers and down may belong to an eagle, but as the families of geese kept landing we realized that this was one of their favorite places to hang out.

Careless flapping gave the eagle away as he settled on a high cedar limb, almost hidden.
Perhaps this was the baby that our host told us to look out for,
kicked out of the nest just a few days earlier.
He sat, surveying the area, out-lasting us.
   Watched the geese land on the jutting shore.
   Watched another bald eagle soar over the territory a few times before heading back inland.
Smaller birds flitted back and forth through the sunlit river crossing under his watchful eye.

Gutteral raven sounds occasionally seeped from the surrounding trees. A yellow finch blended almost into the pine cones at the towering tree's fingertips, dropping too quickly for my binoculars to trace the first time. Second time I knew enough to keep the looking glass dropping till we both landed on shore.

 conflicting currents
salt tide and fresh stream
 eddies of water and wind

you must explore the estuary