Sunday, July 15, 2012

Apricot Jam

It's been an amazing year for apricots!!  For once, we didn't have our usual May 1 frost, so every tree in town is absolutely loaded.

We've got apricots coming out our ears, littering sidewalks with a slippery orange mess, and apparently sending everyone into a canning frenzy. I went to three different stores that were out of canning jars the other day before buying the last two cases at the grocery store near our house.

Apricot jam is so much easier to make than many people think! You do need the special jars though, and you definitely need the jar lifter.






I love picking apricots with my friend Margarita, because her tree always ripens right around my birthday. We picked bags and bags, and I made a case of apricot jam.

The next week, my friend Lorna called to see if I wanted to pick apricots at her magical place out in Placitas. She has about 5 trees. How could I say no? You can always give away apricot jam. So I made another two cases of jam and canned a few quarts of apricots in syrup. Guess now I've got my Christmas presents squared away for this year!




I know apricot jam is not an original recipe by any means (the recipe comes with the pectin packet) but there are a couple of variants I love: 
  • Apricot and Lavender is a great combination, especially because the lavender blooms right around the same time apricots ripen, so eating it in the winter reminds me of those warm June days. 
  • Apricot and Habanero is another winner - the fruity hotness of habaneros goes perfectly with apricots, and it's not overwhelming if you scrape out the seeds and veins.


You can make jam without pectin, just by cooking it down until it thickens, but when you make it with pectin you get a fresher flavor than with the long-cooking method. I like to use the Ball Low or No Sugar Needed pectin that comes in a jar because the batch size is flexible, so I can make just the right amount to fill up my canning pot.

But... the recipe on the jar calls for fruit juice, which I don't want to bother with, and doesn't specify the amount of sugar to use. The amount of sugar to use depends on your taste and how sweet the fruit is - you don't have to use ANY with this kind of pectin. I'm happy with the level of sweetness my recipe produces with my apricots. Another thing the Ball jar doesn't say is that the amount of pectin to use also depends on the fruit (apricots have a lot of natural pectin, whereas many other fruits do not). So my recipe is actually a modification of the one from the Sure-Jell pectin box, and it produces a very firm set with my apricots.

Here's my recipe for 8 pints:
6 cups coarsely chopped apricots (I pulse them in batches in the food processor)
4 cups (or less) white sugar
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
2 Tbs lavender blossoms OR finely minced habanero peppers
3 Tbs Ball low-sugar pectin

Fill canning pot half-full with water and bring to boil on a back burner. Wash jars thoroughly with hot, soapy water.  Heat lids in a skillet of water on another burner until it comes to a simmer, then turn off the heat. You'll need a pair of tongs to pull them out of the hot water.

Stir together apricots, lemon juice and lavender or habanero in a large pot. Gradually stir in pectin, then bring to a rolling boil (hard enough that it keeps bubbling when you stir it) for 1 minute.  Be sure to stir often while it's heating, otherwise when you finally do stir, it may bubble up suddenly and splash you with burning hot goo. Add the sugar and bring to a rolling boil again. Cook for 1 minute more, stirring constantly, then turn off heat.

Ladle jam into clean jars, wipe the rims with a clean cloth, put hot lids on, and screw the bands down finger-tight. Lower sealed jars into the canning pot, and simmer 15 minutes (25 minutes in Albuquerque at 5000ft, 30 minutes in Santa Fe at 7000ft). Lift straight up, and set on a kitchen towel to cool overnight. Don't worry about wiping off the water pooled on the tops of the jars, it will just evaporate as they cool, and you don't want to do anything to disturb the lid. Sometimes the lids will ping as they vacuum-seal to the tops of the jars - a very satisfying sound!
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