This is a tale of three girls: an early girl, a dirty girl and a lazy girl. The early girl definitely did not get the worm. She is a luscious ripe tomato with the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. The dirty girl is often hot and has her own natural beauty...she's Dirty Girl Produce, an organic farm located near Santa Cruz and the grower of those beautiful tomatoes. And the lazy girl? Well, that would be me, but that's a longer story...
Now I'm a girl who loves home-canned foods. Bell jars that have been meticulously sterilized and then lovingly filled with someone's recipe for apricot jam, apple butter, and raspberry jelly make my heart go pitter pat. When someone shows up at my house with a gift of handmade preserves, my esteem for them grows and like the Grinch, my heart grows 10 sizes, bursting with appreciation for their efforts.
I have also been known to do some canning of my own. For years, an old and decrepit apricot tree sat in my backyard, looking scragglier by the year, but producing the sweetest apricots with just a hint of tartness. By far the best apricots I've ever eaten that produced the best jam I've ever made. Thick and sweet, it lay perfectly on freshly toasted challah or in a tart pan. We had so many apricots I made two to three dozen jars of jam each year in addition to making numerous tarts and simply eating tons fresh. We gave away apricot jam at Christmas to family members and neighbors and then had more to keep for ourselves. But then about three years ago, spring arrived and hardly any buds bloomed and the branches lay half naked in summer. We got 5 apricots that year. The next year, the craggy limbs lay bare -- our apricot tree was dead. I've since searched for apricots worthy of canning, but haven't yet found them.
But our apple tree survives, albeit in an even craggier state than the apricot tree seemed to have ever been. Poor tree has fire blight and although I keep saying I need to cut it down, I can't bring myself to actually do it (or, rather, ask my husband to do it). So this year, I am grateful to still have my usual bags of apples ready to be turned into apple butter, waiting in the basement.
What does any of this have to do with the lazy girl? Everything. After years of canning apricots and apples, I'm tired: tired of peeling, tired of sticking produce in a food mill, tired of hot water baths, and tired of sterilizing jars. I love the results, but not the work. So when I bought a 20 lb box of Early Girl tomatoes from Dirty Girl Produce this last weekend, I knew I couldn't bear to can them when I would just have to break out the canning equipment next weekend all over again to turn those apples into apple butter.