Don't get stressed over fruit bounty

It's crunch time for the Oregon fruit harvest. Caneberries, blueberries, apricots, peaches and cherries translate for home preservers into white knuckles and frazzled kitchens.

So before things spin totally out of control, repeat after me: I can only do so much. I will enjoy the season. I won't lose the joy in the process. In other words, relax! Do what you can do and save the rest for next year.

Let's look at some of the stress-free ways you can harness the season's bounty in smaller steps without cheating yourself out of the end result, which is a pantry, refrigerator and freezer full of glorious preserves.

You can freeze batches of prepared fruits as they come into season with the intention of making your preserves at a later date. For recipes either without additional commercial pectin or using liquid pectin, here's how: Cut, measure and combine the fruits with the sugar (and lemon juice if it's called for) according to the recipe. Then store in airtight, freezer containers or plastic pouches. Down the road, when you're ready to make jam, simply thaw and proceed with your recipe.

For recipes using powdered pectin: Freeze the prepared and measured fruit without the sugar because ultimately the recipe will require you to add the pectin to the fruit before adding sugar. Be sure to premeasure each batch of fruit before packing into freezer containers because freezing alters the volume of fruit (it expands when frozen and collapses when thawed).

If you don't have huge chunks of time for preserving right now but don't want to put off the process, look at your recipes and figure out ways to spread the activity over several hours or days. For instance, prepare the fruit and combine it with the sugar (and lemon juice if it's called for) one day, then store in the refrigerator until the next day when you can proceed with the cooking and packing into jars.

If you can't begin a recipe until you've got the juice extracted from the fruit, you can throw the fruit into a pot and place on a burner set on low, which will gently get the juices flowing in the fruit. Then just pour the fruit into a colander and let it drain over a bowl for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

For most folks, the boiling-water canning process is the bottleneck for time management. If space isn't an issue, simply pack your preserves in appropriate containers and refrigerate. You can also freeze traditional jam recipes (make sure you pack them into appropriate freezer containers). Or you can use a bona fide freezer jam or jelly recipe (you'll find several to choose from in boxes of commercial pectins).

For the hurried canner, commercial pectins — either powdered or liquid — really do make life simple. But which should you use? It's truly a matter of taste.

The main difference between the two is that liquid pectin produces a slightly softer jam than powdered pectin. Just remember to follow directions exactly because procedures do vary slightly depending on the pectin product used.

Meanwhile, why not consider using some of the local fruit in savory chutneys? They're less finicky to make than jams and jellies, and they come together fairly quickly. Plus, like I said earlier, if you have room, you can skip the boiling-water canning process and simply stow chutney in your refrigerator, where it will keep beautifully for months and months.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at or read her blog at

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