In a jam
Went for a swim at the lido the other morning; on my way home, just at the top of Broadway Market, I found these gorgeous apricots lying in wait for me — how could I resist?
The trouble with an apricot, however, is that — however beautiful — they never really taste very nice, do they? Always a bit dry, and furry, and somehow disappointing.
Unless, of course, you turn them into jam.
Yes, yes, it always makes me a little nervous too, jam-making. All that stuff about setting points, and the “wrinkle test” (sounds like something I’m going to do more and more as I head deep into middle age…). But relax! Who cares if your jam is a bit runny? It will still be delicious. As for sterilizing jars: I used to use Theo’s baby bottle sterilizer, but that’s long gone, of course. Now I reckon a hot dishwasher is fine: put the jars in, with their lids, run the dishwasher, and don’t open it until you are ready to fill the jars. Job done. For this recipe you’ll need five 370g jars — I use old Bonne Maman jars, mostly.
My go-to guru for jam — and more — is the late Oded Schwartz: my copy of Preserving is pleasingly sticky and stained. This is adapted from there. The main adaptation is that I don’t bother (what with being so lazy) with cracking the apricot stones, and putting the kernels into the jam, as Schwartz suggests… I use some almond extract instead.
1.25 kg apricots
zest and juice of one lemon
1 kg preserving sugar (the kind with pectin added)
300 ml water
1 tsp almond extract
Put a couple of saucers in the freezer.
Quarter the apricots, remove and discard stones. Put the fruit into a glass or ceramic bowl and pour over the lemon juice and zest; let sit until needed.
Put the sugar and water in a wide, heavy preserving pan. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then boil rapidly for 3-4 minutes. Add the apricots and simmer for about 5 minutes. Then bring to a rapid boil and keep it there, stirring frequently, for 2-25 minutes, until the setting point is reached. How can you tell? Spoon some some the boiling jam onto one of your cold saucers: if it wrinkles when you push the surface, it’s done.
Add the almond extract and stir in. Remove from the heat — and Oded says to skim, but guess what? I can’t be arsed. Ladle the jam into the jars you’ve just taken from the dishwasher, and behold!