It’s still apricot season here in Australia and I’m taking full advantage. After that indescribably good apricot upside down cake, I still had about 10 pounds of apricots desperately needing to be used up. There was no way we could eat them all – after a certain amount the physical effects become prohibitive. Trust me, we tried.
I’d never made jam before, so I assumed it took about 10 pounds to make one jar. Perfect, right? In reality, I made 4 jars with just 2 pounds. Which means I still have a lot of apricots. Which, in turn, means you’ll be seeing a lot more of them in the coming weeks!
I adapted David Lebovitz’s apricot jam recipe (which, not incidentally, is the first thing that comes up when I Googled “apricot jam”). Like all of his recipes, it was super straight foward and surprisingly easy. The only real change I made was cutting back on the sugar a bit. Six cups seemed excessive, and the 4 1/2 cups I used still produced a definitely sticky-sweet spread. One neighbor even told me it was too sweet, at which point I immediately crossed her off my list of people I share with.
In any case, apricot jam is a staple around here, often making an appearance on morning toast, but is especially appreciated in this cake. Though Francesco is the loyal apricot jam lover in the family, I do consider it in top running with boysenberry and my safta’s strawberry. Seeing as we always have an industrial, oversized jar of apricot jam in the fridge (and a few waiting in the wings), I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to elevate our breakfast and purify our pantry. We even bought special (read: overpriced), Italian jamming jars for the occasion. The very same ones Francesco’s father and mother use to make their respectively famous – and very different – passata every summer.
That reminds me, I think at this point I’m supposed to issue a standard apology for teasing you icicle-encrusted Northerners with our bounteous, midsummer harvest. Consider that my apology…I’m sure you’ll have no pity when I’m huddling up to my space heater in July and you’re spreading your freshly made apricot jam on everything in sight.
Adapted from the great David Lebovitz. Makes about 4 large jars.
2 pounds (1 kg) fresh apricots
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Cut the apricots in half and extract the pits. Place the apricots in a very large stockpot, and add the water. Cover the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until the apricots are tender and cooked through.
Put a small plate in the freezer to use as a tester. Skip this step if you have a candy thermometer.
Add the sugar to the apricots and cook, uncovered, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. I had a lot of foam, I just tried to get off as much as possible. As the mixture thickens and reduces, stir frequently to make sure the jam doesn’t burn on the bottom.
When the jam looks thick and is looks slightly jelled, turn off the heat and put a small amount of jam on the chilled plate. Put back in the freezer for a few minutes, then do the nudge test: If the jam mounds and wrinkles (as shown in the photo), it’s done. If not, continue to cook, then re-test the jam until it reaches that consistency. If you’ve got a candy thermometer, the finished jam will be about 220ºF, 104ºC.
Once done, stir in the lemon juice and ladle the jam into clean jars. Cover tightly and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, refrigerate until ready to use.
If you want to keep your unopened jars unrefrigerated for long periods of time, you can seal them by boiling them in a big pot of water for about 5 minutes. If you boil more than one jar at once, throw a dish towel into the pot to keep them from knocking together. Nothing will happen to the towel, and your jars won’t break. After 5 – 10 minutes, use tongs to carefully extract the jars from the boiling water. The lids should pop closed as they cool. If this doesn’t happen, and the button on the lid still pops, boil them for a bit longer and try again.