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August 3, 2009

Fig-Plum-Mint-Lemon Jam!

So I joined in the fun yesterday at the Public Fruit Jam at Machine Project. I'd been to this event only once before, a couple years ago--could've been the first one--and it's grown exponentially both in size and in organization. This time there was a definite structure and flow to the event, though it took a few minutes for someone to notice I had just come in and greet me with the details. Overall, they were amazingly prepared.

The Machine Project storefront, above.

Upon arrival, a greeter gave each person a bowl to fill with their own concoction of fruit and spices, and a piece of paper detailing the process. The goal was about five cups of chopped fruit, to be combined with one packet of pectin and heated. When this mixture came to a boil, Sugar was added--their guideline was about five cups. When the mixture came to a second rolling boil, it was ready to be jarred up. Workspaces were set up inside the storefront for chopping fruit.

Outside were a half dozen cooking stations, set up over propane burners. Even with so many stations, the line to cook was at least an hour long.

Once jarred, they had some pre-printed labels (above) with storage info and the date. I love that it says "Eat Quickly & Share With Friends." Don't you think all food should carry this label? You were also supposed to add your own label with the ingredients.

Lastly, everyone was supposed to leave one of their jars on a table inside for all to sample. They even had bread, a toaster, and peanut butter at the sampling station. The jam I tried had lychee fruit in it.

Above is my bowl, pre-cooking. I'd brought a bag of my neighbor's figs that I'd had in the freezer since sometime last fall. I used this as a base for my concoction, and found what looked like cherries to add to them. I was told that my "cherries" were actually small plums. Whatever they were, they were sweet. It was difficult to pit them with only a paring knife, though, and I ended up using my fingers, which wasted a good part of the meat of the fruit. I squeezed the juice of a couple lemons into my bowl, and a nice person zested another for me. I also chopped some mint from a communal stash. Just after I took the picture of my fruit, a staffer came along and told me to quarter each fig. I'd already been waiting in line a good chunk of time, but he allowed for my place to be held while I went inside to chop. He was right--it's pretty chunky as is, and cooking them whole would've taken forever.

My finished jars at the event. I left room in most of the jars so that I could freeze if I wanted, since they weren't canned. The folks at the event turned each jar over as they were filled, so that the boiling hot fruit inside would sterilize and seal the lid. Nifty little trick, I thought.

When I got home, I washed off the outside of the jars (no funnels when I was filling) and decorated the flat of the lid with some fabric. I took a jar over to my neighbor, who'd given me the figs off her tree.

I love the artwork inside the Machine space too. The poster above reads "Transplant the City/Why Live with Barren Landscapes and Sterile Shrubs."

What happens when your neighbor's fruit tree leans into your yard? What happens when it leans over the street? It isn't exactly private anymore. We call it Public Fruit....

Local Harvest/Why not have Country Fresh fruit everyday?

Did anyone else make it to this event after reading about it here? Have any great combinations of jam you've made before? Leave me a comment on the blog.

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