Apricot jam, the way I make it

A staple of my summer and my personal favorite jam to eat and make, my apricot jam does not have a technical recipe. This tendency to go without recipes limits the possibility of posting many of my kitchen creations. The way I make jam explains why I cook more than I bake and how I can to pull off a bright dinner each or any night for my family on a whim.  I just know how to make it, I can feel it, I can see it, and no matter what happens, I can fix it. That may not work in baking but it gives me a chance to play and make food freely every single night, nose out of the cookbook.

I grew up seeing apricot jam being made in a ritualistic but very matter-of-fact way each year. I remember vividly one year when my grandmother left it on the stove too long. So long that the bottom of her giant dark orange Le Creuset pot had a thick deep layer of black burnt apricot stuck to it that took some serious determination to remove. Of course, my grandma removed it.

I made apricot jam many times and not one time have I used a recipe or managed to make my one jam taste the same. I like that. I like that there is chance and unexpected and that I know what to do and how to fix it whichever way it happens to swing one year. Right after I had my daughter, I made a couple of batches of apricot jam, one of which I managed to burn ever so mildly, in a way that infused a burnt apricot flavor into the entire pot. It was outstanding. I jarred it and called it, fittingly, burned apricot jam. The only catch was that I pretended to have meant the burnt part. Everyone loved its richness and caramel-like notes and I have never been able to replicate it.

So here is what I do. I pick very ripe apricots that are fragrant and full of flavor. I take the pits out and set them in layers open-pitted-side up. On each layer of apricots, I sprinkle sugar liberally. When I am done pitting and layering sugar, I stir around to get the juices flowing, the sugar melting and the apricots breaking down.

Then I leave it alone. For a few hours, stirring occasionally. When macerated and softened, stick your very clean hands in and give those babies a nice massage. The purpose is to break the pulp and skin as much as possible. It will break down more through cooking but this is a nice start. Put everything in a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat, stirring for a few minutes to raise the temperature. Reduce the heat to medium and stir every 10-15 minutes to break down the fruit further and prevent it from sticking to the pot. After one hour, taste it for sweetness. Depending on the apricots and your taste, it may need more sugar. If that is the case, add it. Continue cooking over medium heat for at least one more hour. Adjust the texture as you please – you can make it smoother or very smooth with an immersion blender.

Check if it is ready every 30 minutes to an hour. You know it is ready when you can drip jam onto a plate without it running and spreading. Take a spoon, fill it halfway, then drip onto a clean flat plate. Now look, did it spread everywhere? If it didn’t, tilt the plate a tad and see if it runs fast or slowly slides down due to a thicker consistency. If the latter, you are done.

Pour it into sterilized jars, seal it and can it as you wish — I submerge my sealed jars with in gently boiling water with at least 3 inches of water over the top. I boil for 40 minutes, remove and allow the jars to cool with at least 2 inches of space around each jar. Be sure to save some for eating immediately.

 

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