Fresh Apricot Jam for the First Day of Summer
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Straight off the tree, an apricot is a shy and retiring fruit, reluctant to display its charms. Add a little heat, however, and its true character is revealed. This is a flirtatious fruit, teasing you with sweetness before turning on you with a sour smile. By turns sweet, acid and sour, a cooked apricot is a juicy and endlessly fascinating companion that likes to keep you guessing.
I love cooking with apricots, and this time of year, when the local fruit comes onto the market, makes me almost absurdly happy. They are perfect in pies and crumbles, and nothing makes a more delightful jam.
If you've been scared of making jam because of all the sterile bottles and boiling water that comes with canning, you should know that's the only hard part. If you make the jam in fairly small batches and eat it quickly, there’s no need for any of that.
Begin with the heaviest-bottomed pan that you have and make a syrup by stirring a quarter cup of water into one and a quarter cups of sugar and bringing it to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer, while stirring, until it is clear.
Add a pound of apricots, that you’ve pulled apart with your fingers, remove the pits, and cook slowly until the apricots disintegrate. When that happens, add another pound of halved apricots and cook until they’re soft and have turned into a consistency that pleases you. If you like the flavor of vanilla, add a whole vanilla bean at this point. Be sure to keep stirring the pot from time to time so that it doesn’t scorch.
Add the juice of half a lemon (or more), stir well and cook another few minutes. Eaten warm, on fresh biscuits, this makes a perfect summer snack.
Apricot jam will keep well, in the refrigerator, for a couple of week. Mine never lasts that long.