Apricot Jam: A Homemade Paris Treat
I weighed the apricots and then I weighed a scant three-quarters of that weight in sugar. (For those who are as math-challenged as I am, metric weights are a blessing – they’re so easily divisible.)
After cutting the apricots into chunks, I tossed them into an enamel-over-cast-iron Dutch oven, poured in the sugar, gave everything a good stir and then covered the pot and left the fruit overnight to get all sweet and juicy without my help. I did, however, peek and stir each time I passed the pot.
The next day, when I was ready to jam, I found some jars – I had one canning jar with only a plastic storage lid and a couple of yogurt jars – put them in a pot of water, brought the water to a boil and let the jars stay in the hot water until I was ready for them. I washed the plastic lids in hot, hot water. Since I knew that the jam would be eaten within a week or so, I thought this was safe and, I’m happy to report that everyone who had jam, not only loved it, but lived to sing its praises.
Then, also in prep, I put a couple of saucers in the freezer – more about them in a minute – and I put the pot over medium heat and stirred. When the syrup started to bubble, I skimmed off the foam (some of it cloudy) that rose to the top … and then I stopped. I wanted to have a clear, beautiful jam, but the skimming got to be a bit much. Toward the end of jamming, I realized that I could have skimmed less and for a shorter amount of time had I skimmed later in the process.
When half an hour had come and gone, I started to get a little impatient. When I’d made blueberry jam, the jam was done in about 10 minutes … not this stuff. Different fruit with different amounts of pectin, different pot, different heat. Whatever it was, I just kept stirring and then, after about 45 minutes, I did the first ‘wrinkle test’.
When you have an inkling that the jam might be settable, put a spoonful of it on the frozen plate, wait a few seconds and then give it a little poke – if it wrinkles, it’s set.
Confession: after about an hour of stirring and no wrinkles, I called it quits! The jam held its shape on the cold plate and, when nudged, stayed nudged, so, thinking that perhaps I’d had Botoxed apricots, I gave up on the wrinkle and forged ahead.
Before I’d cooked the jam, I’d thought about adding slices of fresh ginger, or a few pieces of star anise, or a vanilla bean, or strips of orange zest, and then, at my husband’s request, I resisted the various urges and went natural. However, at the last minute, I added some freshly squeezed lemon juice and I was glad I did – it was nice to have something fresh and tart in the mix.
Now here’s the thing about just-made jam: IT’S DANGEROUSLY HOT!
Be super-careful spooning the jam into the jars. Clean the lips of the jars, fit the covers on them, wash off the sticky stuff and cool to room temperature.
The jam should be refrigerated once it reaches room temperature and the fridge is where it should stay.
For making ‘real’ jam and for more information on canning, consult the experts: The US Department of Agriculture.
PS: EVEN EASIER SMALL-BATCH JAM — I just found this aricle by Russ Parsons of the LA Times on making jam in really small batches and the technique is even easier and shorter than the one I used. I’ll be experimenting soon.