August 25, 2009

Eternal Summer Apricot Jam {Naptime Everyday}

How I wish summer would last forever. Even though the weather has ranged from cold rain to high heat over the past 90 days, I haven’t minded one bit. This summer has been such a ball, my daughter adored her introduction to the outdoor life, we’ve traveled near and far, and had no shortage of gorgeous beach days. As far as the food goes, well, that has been wonderful, too. Despite the unfortunate tomato blight, I have managed to find plenty of good ones at the farmers’ market. I have also eaten my weight in zucchini, corn and peaches.

I wish I could enjoy this abundance of fresh produce year-round, however, I can’t. Unfortunately, the summer harvest in the northeast will be coming to an end soon. The sun will be setting earlier, the days will cool and I’ll put the beach bag in winter storage. I will be sad when fall ushers in the winter cold, but it least when it does, I’ll have one thing left to remind me of these warm summer days: my homemade apricot jam.

My mother and grandmother have been making apricot jam for as long as I can remember. In fact, it is highly unusual for my mom to buy jam at the store, we have jar upon jar in the cellar. Through experience we have learned that it is best to let the harvest dictate what jam we will make each year. If the peaches are particularly good we will set about making peach basil jam, or, if the strawberries are especially ripe, we’ll make a strawberry/raspberry variety. Sometimes we’ll just do them all. This year, we were thrilled to discover that our favorite little apricots were perfectly plump and sweet, and decided a fresh batch of apricot jam was in order.

There are three essential elements to making jam: fruit, sugar and pectin. In this recipe, adopted from a Patricia Wells cookbook, we opted to harvest the kernels from the apricot pits to let the natural pectin work in lieu of an additive. We also liked the fact that the kernels imbued the jam with a subtle almond flavor that boosted the natural sweetness of the apricots. Harvesting the kernels may sound like a lot of work, but it is not. I merely asked my brother, Uncle Will, to help out and he set to work with a small hammer. The kernels were out within minutes.

Making jam is really a very simple process, though this version is slightly labor intensive. When I made this last week I stirred the apricots in a giant stockpot/cauldron for an hour straight – easily the best upper arm workout ever – until they dissolved into a delicious sugary jam. Once that part was over, it got much easier. The jam sat overnight at room temperature, until I heated it up the next day for one last stir. At that point I removed the kernels, ladled the jam into the jars and sealed them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Apricot Jam via The Naptime Chef The best part about having a dozen jars of fresh apricot jam is that I won’t have to suffer through short winter days pining away for fresh fruits. What Amanda and Shauna say is completely true, canning and preserving fruits is the best ways to enjoy seasonal fruits year-round. I know that I, for one, will be grateful that I put in the effort in August, so that I can enjoy summer apricots even when the snow falls outside my window.

ps – I am submitting this to the Under The High Chair Jam Swap ’09

Recipe

Perfect Apricot Jam

adapted from The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells

Ingredients

SMALL BATCH:

2 lbs apricots, washed, halved and pitted (reserve the pits)
1 ½ c. sugar
4 8oz. canning jars with lids and rims*

LARGE BATCH:

lbs apricots, washed, halved and pitted (reserve the pits)
c. sugar
10-12 8oz. canning jars, with lids and rims*

*Sterilize jars, rims and lids by running them through one full cycle of the dishwasher without dish soap.

Instructions

1. Using a small hammer, or heavy object, crack 35 pits and remove the kernels. Reserve these kernels and discard all remaining pits.
2. In a large stockpot combine apricots, kernels and sugar. Stir the sugar into the apricots and allow pot to sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Then, cook apricots over medium heat for one hour, stirring constantly. As you stir be sure to scrape the bottom so that the apricots don’t burn. I find it useful to wear a heatproof glove or mitt to protect my hand or arm from any splattering liquid. By the end of the hour the apricots will dissolve into a deep orange colored puree. Transfer hot liquid to a heatproof bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
3. After 24 hours have passed, reheat the mixture over medium heat until jam is very thick. I found this only takes about 5-10 minutes. Remove the kernels to the best of your ability with a sieve or slotted spoon. Ladle warm mixture into prepared canning jars, leaving ¼ inch headroom at the top of the jar, and close with lids and rims. Seal jars according to manufacturers instructions. (I usually use the jars that are immersed in a hot water bath to be sealed).

Naptime Notes

Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

Despite the stirring, this is a very easy jam recipe. I love how well the kernels imbued the jam with such a delicious almond like flavor. It is simple and delicious.

Naptime Stopwatch

Though the stirring takes an hour, this jam is relatively easy to prepare over the course of a 24-hour period. I did both parts during my daughter’s naptime over two days.

Naptime Reviews

Everyone who has tasted this jam adores it, it is especially good on breakfast breads.

  • Chow and Chatter

    oh what a lovely jam

  • Chow and Chatter

    oh what a lovely jam

  • Aimée

    This looks beautiful–what a color on it! Thank you so much for your submission.

  • Aimée

    This looks beautiful–what a color on it! Thank you so much for your submission.

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  • Jared Gulian

    Sounds great. Some questions. When you say “combine apricots, nuts and sugar” do you mean “apricots, kernels and sugar”? Also, do you leave those kernels in the jam when you bottle it? Do you pull them out?

    • Anonymous

      Hi! Yes, add the kernels, apricots and sugar. Remove the kernels with a slotted spoon before canning.

  • Lark

    Thank you for the details in an apricot jam recipe using the kernels. I had homemade jam several years ago and it was the best I had ever tasted, and the daughter said her dad made the jam with the pits. Perhaps she meant the kernels, I don’t know, but I knew I wanted a recipe that did not exclude them, and since I cannot contact her dad to ask, I am so happy to find your recipe!! A few questions:
    1. Do you take the “jackets” off the kernels? I read another recipe where they did, as they say otherwise the jam may get bitter. Since you did not say anything about that, I kept the “jackets” on and just threw away the pits after cracking them open. I did not find the jam to be bitter at all. It is a wonderful taste!!
    2. Do you add the “35 kernels” to your “small batch” or your “large batch?” Or do you add 35 kernels regardless of the size of your batch?
    3. Do you stir the mixture at a boil? Or just under a boil? Since I was not sure, I did both. Sometimes I stirred the mixture as it lightly boiled and other times I turned it just below the boiling stage.
    4. Do you put a cover over the bowl when you let the mixture set for the 24 hours? My mixture was made in a stainless steel pot, and I just set if off the stove and kept the mixture in that same pot for the 24 hours, but was not sure if I should put the lid on or leave it off.
    Thanks so much for a fantastic recipe that I know my family will enjoy for years to come!

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