Easy Apricot JamJuly 8, 2009 at 8:57 pm | Posted in jams & preserves, sweet things | 34 Comments
First I pickled…now I jam. I think I’m really just looking for excuses to use these cute little French jars. Actually, a recent comment from fellow blogger Joy of Hot Oven, Warm Heart, coupled with finding the cutest little soft apricots at the store the other day, had my one-track mind thinking about pretty much nothing but homemade jam.
The first time I made my own jam was probably about five years ago. I belonged to a CSA, and in the summer months I was taking home bags full of peaches, nectarines and plums each week. Now that’s no hardship, but it was too much for two of us to possibly consume in a week’s time, so I decided to take up canning my own jam. I bought a canning kit, a big pot, a bunch of Ball jars and a couple of books and went to town. My kitchen that summer was like Mr. Wizard’s lab, with bubbling pots, thermometers, sterilized tongs…it was a lot of work, and I was giving away jam to anyone who would take it.
Since that summer, I haven’t been lucky enough to have abundance of stone fruits fall into my lap, so now I’m preserving the easy way, with less sugar and smaller quantities of fruit that yield just enough jam to be eaten up over the course of a couple weeks. The smaller amount of fruit is much easier to work with; it’s also much easier to judge when your jam has gelled. No need for pectin (which I don’t like working with anyway) or water bath processing…just store the finished jam in the refrigerator and use within two weeks. I think that little Ball/Mason jars or French canning jars with rubber seals are downright adorable, but you can recycle store-bought jam jars or just use an airtight container for this type of preserving as well.
If you want, you can also infuse your jam with background flavors during cooking time. A whole cinnamon stick or half a vanilla bean would be great additions to apricot jam. I actually threw a fresh bay leaf into mine while it cooked down. Sounds a little weird, but I remember a pastry chef at an old job poaching whole apricots in a syrup infused with fresh bay. You hardly know it’s there, but it gives a very subtle savory backnote that plays nicely with the sweetness. If you do something like this, just fish out whatever whole spice you’ve added before storing your jam, or the flavor may get too intense while it sits.
Your homemade jam will be the most delicious thing to ever hit your toast, crumpets, crêpes, or (OMG) your PB&J! I haven’t had any consistency problems with this method (because it’s easy to test and correct), but if you ever make jam– whether it’s the easy way or the water bath-processed method– and it sets up loose, don’t throw it out. Runny jam becomes such a perfect fruit sauce for ice cream, yogurt, pound cake, etc, that you can pretend you meant it to be that way!
Easy Apricot Jam– makes 2 1/2 cups
adapted from Cooks Illustrated (July/August 1998)
Note: To prep your apricots, wash, peel (this is optional…personally, I like the skins and leave them on), halve and pit them. Then slice them very thin. You want to wind up with 1 pound of fruit after prepping.
The jam will continue to thicken as it cools, so err on the side of undercooking. Because of its reduced sugar amounts, this jam cannot be canned.
1 pound prepared fruit, about 3 cups
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
– Set a bowl over a larger bowl of ice water; set aside.
– In 10- or 12-inch skillet, bring fruit, sugar, and lemon juice to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly and skimming foam as necessary, until mixture begins to look syrupy and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes; remove from heat. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon fruit mixture into bowl over ice water; allow to set for 30 seconds. Tip bowl 45 degrees to one side; jam should be a soft gel that moves slightly. If mixture is liquid and runs to side of bowl, return skillet to heat and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes longer; then repeat test. Save the ice bath to cool the finished product.
-Cool jam to room temperature (over the ice bath) before serving or transferring to a clean glass jar or airtight container (you can sterilized first with boiling water, if you are so inclined). It will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to two weeks.