This simple apricot jam is made with just fruit and sugar. The recipe is calculated using a three to one ratio, so it can easily be scaled up or down, depending on how many apricots you have to start.
This is the first summer in nearly six years that I’m not working on a cookbook. While this scares me a little bit (I like knowing that I have the next project locked down), it also feels totally liberating. Because it means that I am free to make whatever I want. What’s more, everything I make can eventually make it to the blog. I don’t have to hold anything back.
A couple weeks ago, I got about 22 pounds of apricot seconds from a local grower. If I was producing for a book, those apricots would have been earmarked for particular projects. I would have needed to have made interesting flavor combinations. What’s more, I would have been timing every aspect of the cooking process, to be sure that I could accurately represent the process in writing.
Instead, I made three large batches of plain, unadulterated, totally simple apricot jam. Just apricots and sugar, measured by weight, macerated overnight, and cooked down into slightly runny, intensely tart, vividly orange jam.
Because, my friends, as much as I like apricot butter, apricot jam spiked with rosemary or thyme, and apricot chutney, this very simple apricot jam is one of my favorite things on the planet. And because I was canning only to please myself, that is what I made.
My whole sensory self was engaged as the jam cooks. I watched the bubbles, felt the fruit thickening as I stirred. The fragrance of cooking sugar rode up with the steam and the sound of the boil became more frenzied as the process neared completion.
This is not canning that easily fits into a book. It doesn’t bring anything new or novel to the table. It is, in fact, how people have been making jam for a very long time. But it brings me joy. It’s artful, creative jam making.
A note on working with seconds. Normally, when calculating recipes by weight, I measure out the fruit before I pit and quarter it, figuring that the loss will be minimal. However, when I’m working with seconds that require more trimming and culling than unmarred fruit, I wait until after I’m done with the prep work to weigh the fruit and calculate how much sugar to use. It’s this second approach that you’ll see reflected in the recipe below.
Basic Apricot Jam
- 6 pounds pitted trimmed, and roughly diced apricots
- 2 pounds sugar
- Combine the apricots with the sugar and let them macerate for at least an hour (overnight is even better).
- When you're ready to cook, prepare a boiling water bath canner and enough jars to hold around 5 pints of product (I use a combination of quarter, half and full pints for my jam).
- Pour the macerated fruit into a low, wide, non-reactive pan and set it over high heat.
- Bring the fruit to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally at the start of cooking, and nearly constantly towards the end.
- The cooking process will take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the width of your pan, the water content in the fruit, and the heat output of your stove.
- You're looking for the jam to get glossy, for thick layers to form on the walls of the pan, and for the jam to sheet nicely off your spoon or spatula. When it does all that, it will be done.
- When the jam is thick enough for you, remove the pan from the heat and funnel the jam into your prepared jars.
- Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. When the time is up, remove the jars from the canner and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. When the jars are cool enough to handle, test the seals. Sealed jars are shelf stable for a year or more. Unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.