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Making preserves at home
November 22, 2002 - by Johanna Grumblin

Besides keeping an old Simmish tradition alive, home made preserves make the perfect gift. As a girl I watched my grandmother make preserves, just like she used to watch her grandmother. And I learned some secrets.

I'm now a grown up woman myself, and because I have no grandchild to pass my knowledge on to, I want to share it all with you. I recently built my own lovely apple tree garden, a great source for peace and recreation - and of course for delicious apples. This Autumn gave an extremly good harvest, which naturally inspired me to start preserving, just like Sims have done for generations. I bought a canning centre, the needed equipment and looked up my Grandmother's old recipies.

It's quite easy to get started, all you need is a stove, a pan, some jars and the apples, all of which comes with the recommended Boggs Home Canning Center (§815) that are available in the SimNation catalogues. In addition you will need a knife and a dipper which you will find in your kitchen, but if you plan to make preserves often, or if you place the canning bench far away from your kitchen, you might prefer to get a separate set of kitchen tools for your canning bench. It's a good opportunity to buy some brand new stuff for your kitchen, and use the old items for your canning centre!

Cooking preserves do include hard physical work, and in the start you might find it a bit difficult. Some practice will make the process easier, but there's a few things you can note even before you start.

A way of storing fruit
I've heard of Sims boiling the apples far too much, forgetting to lock the jars while the jam is warm, or even not having enough apples to fill the set of 6 jars. Another misunderstanding is that you can preserve red apples only.

The basics about preserving, is a way to store the fruit for a much longer time than if it was not preserved. When you buy jam in the store there's always an expiring date, meaning the product ought to be consumed within a certain date. When you buy an apple, it will be fine for a couple weeks. If you slice it it will become brown within minutes. When peserving we make sure the apples can be stored for months, just like the jam you buy in the store. The difference is that your product will be a lot healthier than the jam you get in a regular store, because you will add nothing but sugar. So, it's important that you do this the right way, or your preserves will be wasted after only a few weeks.

One thing that is needed to make an apple rotten, is air - or oxygen to be exact. If you do not fill up the jars with apple jam, there will be room for air in the glasses together with the apples. The less jam, the more air. If you fill the jar properly, there will be no air, and the heating process will press any remaining oxygen out of the glass. I'll not go further into details, but you see there is a reason why the can must be full. If you have less apples than needed you should rather try to skip 1 or 2 jars than to allow air in all 6.

My Grandmother's recipy
Well, I must be honest, I will not give out my very best secret recipy, but the second best. I do sell the jam to the market, so a few of my secrets must remain secrets. But the second best recipy is also a very good one, and I guarantee your preserves will be very much appreciated gifts!

Apple jam is made of apples and sugar. As simple as that. The secret is how you treat the apples, and how much sugar you add at what point. In addition you can use spices to add a personal taste. In general the jam will be better the less sugar you add, but as the sugar helps on the preserving process, this is a matter of for how long you want to store the jars.

Johanna Grumblin's Grandmother's Secondbest Jam:
  • 1 bucket of green apples
  • 1 handfull with sugar
  • 1 fingertip with your secret mix of spices (vannilla, canel, herbs etc)
  • Boil the apples carefully for 5 minutes, stire regularly, do not allow too much heat
  • Add sugar and spices, and boil/stire for 5 more minutes. 
  • Fill the heated jars
  • Wait 1 minute before canning
  • The jars should rest until they get cold (temperated).
  • The jars can be stored in your inventory or sold at the local market.
You can use all kinds of apples, although some apples are better suited. Personally I prefer Delicious Red Mini or Green Sim Delight. Note that you can use damaged apples too. If you have an apple tree garden, apples that you find on the ground are great for preserving, just cut away real bad parts before boiling.

The more you boil the apples, the less fruit pieces in your jam, besides it's easier to burn it all. If you burn or boil too much the natural taste will get ruined. And what townie would appreciate burnt apple preserves for Christmas?

Building your cooking skills
Making preserves is an interesting way of building your cooking skills, at least it might be more appealing to most than just studying. Cooking is all about experience, so I think learning from your own cooking activity is way better than reading books. If you have no cooking skills at all you will need to make 54 preserves (58.5 hours) to become fully skilled. This is some more hours than if you should study for 10th level, but you will earn more than §1.800 when canning preserves. It normally takes 65 minutes to preserve a set of 6 jars.

The catch is that you will get exhausted unless you give it time. Besides it is a rather lonely business, meaning if you are very outgoing you will need more time to reach the top level. Also you should make sure the room score is high to keep you focused on the job. I think this kind of business is perfect for you if you are active and shy. Remember this is physical work, and you will need to be happy and relaxed before you start in order to get something from it. Testing has proven that one's energy level has nothing to say as long as the all over mood is fine. This means it is easy to forget time, and several of our TestSims collapsed at the canning bench.

Selling the preserves
I like to give my preserves as small gifts to neighbours and townies. But I also make some for the local market. Very soon I will also sell them from my new restaurant. Everyone can start their own home business canning preserves.

The preserves will naturaly be better the more experienced you are, and if you already have studied cooking, that will help on the quality of your preserves. It might even take a little more time to build your cooking skills from preserving instead of studying, basically because you will also need to clean the bench and move away your products inbetween each set of jars.

But there is one clear advantage from making preserves; you will get extra Simoleans adding nicely to your household budget. Do not expect a lot money in the start, but that will gain as you learn the techniques, and of course it will depend on how many preserves you can make during a day. The market will pay you §60 per set of jars if you deliver brilliant preserves, it is not a problem to earn §300 on a good day. If you are still learning the art of preserving, you will normally get paid §6 multiplied with your cooking skills, for example if your cooking skills are at level 5 you will earn §30 per set. Note that you will earn less when selling preserves which made your skills ump one level, beacause you improved your technique that set of preserves might be less successful, but that will pay back later on. Personally I recommend you to add those new technique preserves to your inventory instead of selling them, because the earning might be very little.

Top photo show me preserving apples from my garden.
Bottom photo shows a couple TestSims checking the Boggs Home Canning Center.