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.