Over the years, I’ve read many lists of tips for bloggers. One tip that stuck with me is “Don’t apologize if you haven’t posted for a while.” I agree. It would feel terribly self-important to apologize. I don’t know about you, but there are only a few bloggers I’d miss if I didn’t hear from them consistently, especially these days when we’re ceaselessly drenched in a digital downpour. When a familiar voice reaches me through the storm, I do smile, but I’m content with the quiet, too.
If anything, I’m sorry that I’m posting a stone fruit recipe when the season has quit for most folks. I have good excuses. When I made this jam in August, I was away in Alaska with no connectivity whatsoever. Also, Stewart and I got married in Fairbanks, so I was preoccupied. (I may have just buried the lead, but this post really is about nectarines.)
So what about nectarines? I’d never turned them into jam before, and I wouldn’t have thought to do it — we don’t get a lot of surplus nectarines at home –except Stewart had the bright idea (truly, it was) to bring a bag of about twenty not-yet-ripe nectarines into the wilderness. That meant we got to enjoy eating them out of hand for about a week, until the rest came due all at once. Sometimes it’s a handy thing to have a jam-maker’s hat in your back pocket.
My Quiet Place
Nectarine jam is easy to make, but I did encounter a couple of questions while preparing it. Nectarines, like peaches, are very wet. Would the liquid evaporate before the fruit overcooked? No problem. Granted, this is a small batch — just a pint for the fridge — but a bigger batch would work fine, too. I think the idea is to use a wide, heavy pan so the mixture isn’t too deep. That maximizes evaporation and keeps the cooking time short. I might quadruple the quantities below if I were going to can this recipe, but probably wouldn’t do more than that.
Also, what about the skins? They’re fine. The skins melt into the jam in a wonderful way and I suspect they improve the color, too.
Here are my notes from the woods. And there’s a cleaned-up version below.
2 cups chopped nectarines (about 7 medium-sized pieces of fruit)
2/3 cup sugar
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1. Wash the nectarines and roughly chop them into pieces of about 1″ square. Leave the skin on.
2. Combine all ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl, cover tightly, and let sit for at least 4 hours. (If you macerate the mixture for only a short time, there’s no need to refrigerate. If I were going to let the bowl sit overnight or longer, I’d put it in the fridge.)
3. After macerating, puree 1/2 of the mixture using a food mill, blender, or VitaMix. (If you use a food mill, return the skins to the puree.)
4. Place the mixture (both the macerated and pureed parts) in a 3-quart, heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook at a steady but gentle boil until the mixture thickens. Stir frequently to prevent sticking or scorching. When the jam is done, you’ll see clear tracks across the bottom of the pan when you stir, and it will start to mound up a bit on your spoon. (You can also use the freezer test to check for doneness.)
Makes about 1 pint for the fridge. As I mentioned above, I might quadruple these quantities if I were going to can this jam, and I’d cook it in an 11-quart, wide-bottomed jam pan.
We really did get married!
It’s been a long time since I posted here. So long that I forgot one of the main reasons I started this blog, which was to keep track of jam recipes when something turns out well. I scratched out this recipe on a scrap of paper, then I was asking myself where I should put it so I don’t lose it. Well, duh.
These apricots were a wonderful gift from a friend who went out of town just when the fruit was coming in. It was a complete surprise, getting his email asking if I wanted to come over and pick them. No way could I turn that down. He has so many fruit trees that we’re not yet clear on the variety; they’re probably an apricot-plum cross — an aprium — but I think this recipe would work well with any kind of ripe, sweet apricot or aprium. Lacking a true name for the fruit, I’m calling this one “Bee House Apricot Jam,” because the trees sit right in front of his colorful apiary. The bees were so mellow, flying slowly and heavily around me while I picked, not at all disturbed by my presence.
If you’ve been here before, you may wonder what’s up with the sugar in this jam. It’s pure cane. I’m still off sugar, myself, but I wanted to give this recipe what it seemed to need — a moderate amount of the real thing. Apricot jam is a favorite of so many people that I know I won’t have trouble giving these jars as gifts. And I did let myself taste it, because otherwise how would I know what I was making? You have to live a little.
Low Sugar Apricot Jam
Makes about 7 half-pint jars
5 pounds apricots (weighed after pitting and quartering)
1 pound 12 ounces pure cane sugar
2 ounces fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
splash (about 1 tablespoon) Grand Marnier
Rinse, pit, and quarter the apricots. Place them in a large glass or ceramic bowl with the sugar and lemon juice. Gently stir these ingredients together. (You want to minimize bruising the fruit at this stage.) Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap (to minimize browning) and allow the mixture to macerate in the fridge for 24 hours. It really does take about that long for the fruit and the sugar to marry well. Meanwhile, go watch Season 2 of Orange Is the New Black or something. Everyone seems to be binge watching it. I stayed up until after midnight last night to get to the finale and find out what happens to Vee; now maybe I can go to bed on time again.
Anyway. These are the steps for the second day:
1. Sterilize your jars.
2. Place half of the apricot mixture in a Vitamix or food processor and blend/mix on low speed until you have a chunky puree. Then put the puree and the quartered apricots into your jam pan. (This step facilitates cooking and gives the jam a nice, varied texture at the end.)
3. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook until it gets very foamy, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and skim the foam.
4. Return the mixture to the heat and add the almond extract, then cook the jam to the setting point. At the very end of the cooking process, stir in the Grand Marnier.
Tips for cooking this jam. Stir just frequently enough to prevent any scorching or too much sticking. Lower the heat as needed. You can use the freezer test to determine whether the jam is done, but I don’t do that anymore. I just look for the signs that the jam is thick enough: There’s no more excess liquid, it subtly mounds up in front of my spoon as I stir, the bubbles have settled down, the jam is spitting at me, and I’m getting some clear tracking across the bottom of the pan after letting it bubble for perhaps 10 seconds. (I’m using an 11-quart copper pan for this.) If I let the mixture sit off the heat for a few minutes, it wrinkles kind of like a Shar Pei. When you reach the Shar Pei stage, you’re good to go. But remember to bring the jam back to a slow boil before canning it — hot jam goes in hot jars and all that.
5. Ladle or pour the jam into the jars, leaving 1/4″ head space. If necessary, wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.
At this time of year, citrus is rolling all over the Internet. Lately, I’ve seen lemons, blood oranges, and kumquats, kumquats, kumquats. I thought I’d better get my act together and write up this recipe before all the good grapefruits turn into strawberries, as they will before we know it. (You can see from the date in the picture that I’ve been meaning to get to this one for a while.) One of the main reasons I’m keeping this blog, these days, is to document my experiments replacing sugar with honey in preserves, and this one was worth scribbling down.
A couple years ago, I decided to call these mashups of citrus and sweetness “jam,” though some people will definitely say “marmalade” because the whole fruit is used, even the rind. But I still believe marmalade is more intense and takes more time: the carefully sliced rind, the long soaking, the slow chase of the perfect, translucent set. (There’s a very interesting post about how marmalade sets at different temps here, BTW. Great visuals!)
To me, this is jam because it’s just fruit solids, honey, and lemon juice, mixed up and cooked fast. The grapefruit tastes surprisingly fresh. You can also find lovely citrus jams made in a more classic way, without the rind. Food in Jars’ grapefruit jam is a good example. The way I’m doing it here is decidedly rough cut — God, I’m tired of the word “rustic.” Are you?
This recipe is based on one of my all time favorites, Texas Ruby Red Marmalade, by the Cosmic Cowgirl — aka the award-winning Stephanie McClenny of Confituras, from Austin, Texas. I’ve been making her recipe several times a year for four years now, sometimes adding half a cup of champagne and calling it grapefruit mimosa jam. I never wanted to post my own version because who needs to mess with perfection?
But trying it without sugar — using only honey? I had no idea how this would work out. (I’ve successfully made jams with Meyer lemons and honey and Rangpur limes and honey, but this was a first for graperfruit.) Even as it was cooking, I didn’t know. Was it going to thicken enough? (Clearly, it did.) Would the honey taste overcooked? (Thank goodness, it doesn’t, because with three and a half cups of wildflower honey, that would be an expensive mistake.) I’m happy to have another preserve that works without refined sugar.
Do know that you must really and truly love grapefruit to love this preserve — either Stephanie’s version or this one. It’s got a bitter kick cuz it’s good that way.
Grapefruit Honey Jam
makes about 3 pints
3 pounds organic pink or red grapefruit
3 1/2 cups wildflower honey
juice of one lemon
Wash the grapefruits, slice them in half, and place them in a large stock pot. Add enough water to cover the fruit by a couple of inches and then simmer, uncovered, until the grapefruit halves are very soft. This usually takes about an hour and a half. (I test them with a wooden skewer. They’re done when it’s easy to pierce them all the way through.) Add more hot water if needed during the simmering process.
Drain the grapefruit halves and set them aside until you can handle them without burning your hands. Then place a cutting board inside a roasting pan. Cut the grapefruit into chunks, removing the big seeds as you work. (This part is all from Stephanie. I’m so glad she figured out the cutting board in the roasting pan thing. It keeps you from making a huge mess.) Don’t worry about any tiny seeds. After what comes next, you’ll never notice them.
Put the grapefruit chunks into a food processor and process until finely chopped. (You can see a picture of this by following the link to the Cosmic Cowgirl recipe, above.) For this recipe, I think it’s best to chop them quite fine, though you don’t want to turn them into an indistinct mush.
Transfer the chopped grapefruit to your jam pot and add the honey and lemon juice. (Don’t scrimp on the quality of your honey. You will taste it, so it needs to be great.) I found it helpful to warm the honey first. Slowly bring the mixture to a gently boil, then simmer and stir frequently until the jam thickens. There’s really no need to do a fancy test for the set with this one. You’ll see distinct clear tracking (slow to fill) across the bottom of the pan when it’s done and it will already be mounding up on a spoon. (I forgot to write down how long this took. My best guess is 20-25 minutes.)
Ladle or pour the jam into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Bubble your jars with a wooden chopstick or other tool of choice. Wipe rims, apply lids, and process 15 minutes in a hot-water bath, adjusting time for your altitude if necessary.
Also, I wanted to quickly follow up on my post about saving citrus trees from freezes and frosts with Christmas lights. It worked fabulously. The Rangpur limes are here to prove it . . .