Apricots and almonds–all whistle now
A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties
This is the first in a series of 26 posts, each day in April except Sundays, one letter of the alphabet.
My father planted a wide variety of fruit trees between the farm house and the cowshed. These trees were our source of fresh fruit and the excess each season was stewed, made into jam or bottled and preserved for consumption during winter months.
ApricotsFresh from the tree these were delicious. Mum often served apricots cut in half and sprinkled with a little coconut. Fresh cream on the table completed the treat. My father was quite a champion of piling copious quantities of jam and lovely thick cream onto a single slice of bread. He then cut it neatly into four quarters and we watched with anticipation to see if it would reach his mouth without jam or cream sliding off that tiny quarter.
Apricots ripen in the hottest weather and as the season wore on and the ripening quickened, some became soft and suitable only for jam. Lined up around the table my sisters and I stoned and sliced apricots by the bucket load. The softest ones were consigned to the jam pot with firm ones packed carefully into sterilised jars. These were topped with sugar syrup, a rubber band placed carefully around the rim then the Vacola metal lid clipped into place. Jars were stood in boiling water and removed carefully after they were cooked.
The jam pot which bubbled and hissed on the stove needed regular stirring to ensure it did not stick to the pan. There were no non-stick pots or pans in our farmhouse in the fifties and sixties. A spill of hot jam produces a nasty burn, one had to take care. A ladle was used to transfer the hot jam into the previously sterilised jars which were re-used from year to year. It was best to cover the jam while it was still hot. The round cellophane covers had been purchased in advance. In the packets there were also paper labels to record the date and type of jam. One dampened the cellophane cover, stretched it over the top then held it in place with a rubber band. The kitchen after a day of bottling and jam making was a hot and sticky place, no air conditioning or fans.
AlmondsThe almond tree yielded well in good years. On a designated day we would gather around the table to shell the almonds. Once the soft outer case had been peeled away it was time to crack the inner shell. I’ll always remember Mum urging us to whistle or sing while we worked, a strategy designed to prevent the consumption of this well-prized product of the orchard. The precious shelled almonds were hidden carefully in the pantry away from marauding mouths and used sparingly throughout the year.
Next up B - Bulls in the paddock, baking and bicycling