After she cut my hair this afternoon my friend Michon and I ate the quintessential southern summer lunch at The Diner on N. Gordon St. in  Winston-Salem: Fried yellow squash, pinto beans with raw onion and mayonnaise-based cole slaw. Driving back to the farm I enjoyed a  yellow freestone peach from Lindsay Deal’s Alexander County orchard. Perfection!

Then it was time to do something with some of the blueberry tidal wave that has swept onto our shore in the last 24 hours, a quart that my husband picked yesterday and a gallon or more from his father. (When they asked if I wanted a gallon of these Brussels-sprout-sized berries, I said, “Who turns down free fresh blueberries, already picked?”)

Yesterday I’d treated myself to a new cookbook at the grocery store, the imaginatively-titled Canning from Better Homes and Gardens , a $9.99 paperback that paid for itself with this afternoon’s Blueberry-Maple-Pecan Conserve. If it’s not the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth, it’s really close. I may have a hard time giving this away, come Christmas.

Summer in a jar

In heavy 4- to 6-quart pot, combine 4 cups blueberries, 1 cup water, 1 cup real maple syrup and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Using potato masher, slightly crush berries. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes or until berries are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir 2 cups packed brown sugar and 1 cup dried currants into blueberry mixture. Return to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to maintain gentle rolling boil. Simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes (I needed twice this time!) or until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup chopped pecans and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Ladle hot conserve into hot, sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids. Process in boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (start timing when water returns to boil). Remove jars from canner; cool on clean towels. Leave undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Check seals and tighten rings. Makes 5 half-pints of an incredibly rich and complex tasting conserve, which, btw, is a jam made with two different fruits and frequently nuts.


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