Monday, December 16, 2013

Putting up some fog

The fog is coming in, in delicate whorls and swirls, all along our street and into our front yard. It's beautifully thick, and getting thicker all the time, muting the streetlights and concealing passing cars. So, naturally, I'm getting out all the spare canning jars I have -- it's time to put up some fog.

My mother and grandmothers taught me the gentle art of home canning and preserving, and the knowledge has often come in handy, especially when the end of year rolls around and I'm pondering over the endless quandary of what little gift to give a friend or acquaintance. I've discovered that though most people appreciate certain kinds of home-canned goodies (apricot ambrosia is a perennial favorite), you must take personal tastes into account. Oh, a quart or two of sunlight is always appreciated in midwinter around here, and nearly everyone likes a little dish of pickled cloud in summer, but moonlight preserves, for instance, are considered something of an acquired taste (though one well worth acquiring, IMHO).

And then there's fog. One of the least regarded varieties of weather for preservation, which is really a shame, since fog is both practical and delectable.

If you live in an area where fog is ubiquitous -- say, London or the San Francisco Bay Area -- you might wonder why anyone would bother to put up a few quarts of fog when the fresh stuff is always available. And if you don't, and haven't developed a fondness for it, you might wonder why anyone would bother to preserve fog at all. But fog is a bit like quince -- not much of a draw for the instant-gratification crowd, but for those who are willing to do the work required, intensely rewarding.

So: how to put up some fog for later use.

a plentiful source of heavy fog (if necessary, use fog bait; see below)
oranges and lemons, cut crosswise into thin slices, seeds removed
a heavy stockpot for reducing
a boiling-water bath canner or pressure canner
several wide-mouth pint or quart jars with lids and screw tops

Gather a sufficient quantity of heavy fog. (If fog is insufficiently thick, make fog bait: grind up two cups of dry yellow peas into peasemeal, add a sachet or two of gelatin, four cups of water, boil until peas are cooked, and set outside for an hour to attract a pea-soup fog to the area.) Fill stockpot, cover and boil to reduce to an intense thickness, at least 3 hours. (Don't peek! It will take much longer and you'll fog up your kitchen.)

Sterilize jars, lids and screw tops. To each jar, add a slice of orange and a slice of lemon; this gives the fog an attractive brightness and keeps it from turning into smog. Fill jars with hot fog to within 1/2" of rim, wiping edges with a hot cloth if necessary, cover immediately with lids and screw down half-tight. Process in a boiling-water bath canner 20 minutes, or in a pressure canner according to manufacturer's directions. Jars are properly sealed when the center of the can lid no longer makes noise when pressed. Properly processed fog will keep 2 years without deterioration.

I think home-canned fog is plenty good on its own, but if you're looking for other ways to use it: release a jar or two a few hours before your workday begins, and you can take a day off. It's also handy to carry a quart or two around in your bag if you need to elude shady pursuers -- just break one on the sidewalk and run. Finally, no public performance of the bluegrass standard "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" is complete without someone in the crowd passing around some fog. (Avoid the "moonshine;" it's not what you think.)


MarieC said...

Oh, bottling fog is just WRONG! ;-) Gimme pickled sunshine any day.

Soozcat said...

Aw, come on, I love fog! I'm a Bay Area girl. Fog reminds me of Christmas.