I ate my first memorable apricot in 1986. I was seven years old and my sister was in her final year of nursery school. The normal order of things in those days was that my mom would pick Raina up at school first and then together, they’d come to get me. For whatever reason, that day the pick-up order was reserved. I delighted in that mostly because it meant I could ride in the front seat without a battle.
When we walked into the main area of Wee Kirk (is it strange that 25 years later, I still remember the name of my younger sister’s pre-school?), sitting on a high table was a giant basket of apricots with a sign that simply said, “Help yourself.” A parent had brought it in, an attempt to cope with the amount of fruit that a tree in Southern California can produce.
I took one, slurped it down and then quickly pocketed two more, loving the way the sweet and tart played together. My mom stopped me before I could well and truly ruin my dinner, but she was too late to keep me from falling under the spell of the apricot.
Though I’ve happily put away more than a few apricots in the intervening years, my appreciation for apricots was well and truly rekindled during my Slashfood days. That when I was the lucky recipient of a jar of Blenheim apricot jam from We Love Jam. This was about six months before my own jam making practice exploded, and so that jar seemed magical and hugely precious. I turned some aspect of every meal into a vehicle for that jam.
Last year, thanks to a friend with good fruit connections, I got a good deal on apricots and made jam and butter galore. However, I gave away a bunch and ate the rest and it was all long gone well before January. This season I was determined not to spend even a moment without access to an apricot preserve of some stripe. So I bought 25 pounds of apricots from Beechwood Orchards a few weeks back. They were seconds. They were heavy. They were a dollar a pound. I couldn’t resist.
I realize that confessing the volume of this purchase flies in the face of an urban preserving post. But before you freak out, I want to make it clear that you don’t have to be like me. My canning exists at one end of the spectrum. Here’s how you can make a batch of apricot jam on the on the other end. The small batch kind. All you need is two pounds of apricots. Whether you pluck them from a larger haul or you restrain yourself to buying just the handful necessary is up to you.
The way it works is fairly simple. Take two pounds of apricots and pull them in half with your fingers. Pluck out the pits and put them aside. Heap the halved apricots into a measuring cup with at least four cups capacity. Once they’re all there, use a fork or a small potato masher and break them down. The pieces don’t have to be uniform in size, you just want a pulpy, vividly orange mess.
Combine them with two cups of sugar and three tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary (should you not be a fan of rosemary, feel free to leave it out for a more traditional flavor profile). Pour into a pot and cook until it spits and spatters and runs thickly off the side of a spoon. Add the juice of a lemon. Fill the jars and process. No pectin or extensive cook times required (apricots are already so thick and jammy before you even add sugar that they cook up speedy fast).
The final flavor is sweet, tart and just a touch herbal. It’s good slathered on chicken before baking or dabbed atop a healthy blog of goat cheese. My inspiration for the addition of rosemary comes from the lovely site Putting By. I really enjoy the use of blog as personal record of food preservation. I aspire to that level of documentation, but rarely achieve it.
Should you need a more detailed set of instructions, an organized recipe is after the jump.
- 4 cups mashed apricots (about two pounds whole fruit)
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Prepare a small boiling water bath canner and 4 half pint jars. Place lids in a small pan of water and set to a bare simmer.
- Combine mashed apricots, sugar and rosemary in a roomy, non-reactive pot and bring to a boil. Let cook for 7-15 minutes*, until the fruit thickens and runs slowly and thickly off the back of a spoon.
- When jam seems thick and spreadable, add the lemon juice. Stir to combine. Remove pot from heat.
- Carefully ladle jam into four half pint jars (depending on the concentration of the sugars in the fruit, it may reduce down further and leave you with just three half pints. Prepare to be surprised). Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in your small boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
- When time is up, remove jars from pot. Let cool. When jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals. If seals are good, store jars in a cool, dark place. If any of the jars did not seal, put those jars in the fridge and use within a month or two.
*Please remember that cook times are approximations that can vary greatly depending on the width of your pot, the amount of water in the fruit and even the humidity in the air. Don’t just blindly rely on that time frame, use your senses to help you.