I love jam-making. Such a simple, unburdened process, with only a few ingredients, one sturdy pot, and a wooden spoon. Truly brings back to much simpler times.
Growing up, apricots were my absolute favourite fruit. There is something about the soft, golden apricot that makes it the perfect summer fruit. Ripe and plump, they are divine when bitten into, fresh from the tree, just lightly washed in cold water from a nearby orchard faucet.
One way of preserving their essence, flavour, and colour is by cooking them down into a jam, with as little sugar as possible, so all of their natural sweetness and flavour shows through. Since they are naturally a bit lower in pectin, they need to cook a tad bit longer, which is why I like to let them cook on high heat for a bit, just to get them soft and mushy. Adding a spot of freshly squeezed lemon juice not only brightens up the flavour, but it helps the jam set properly, too.
This is a small batch, with only a kilogram of apricots, but it is still plenty to be slathered on pancakes, cake rolls, as well as buttered toast.
1 kilogram fresh apricots, stones removed
100 ml cold water
300 grams granulated sugar
50 ml fresh lemon juice
1 whole vanilla bean
Carefully wash the apricots and tear them in half. Take a wide, heavy-bottomed pot, and pour in the cold water. Add in the apricots, squeezing them with your hands, to help them cook quicker. You can also chop them into quarters. Place the pot over high heat, let it come to a rolling boil, and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn the heat down to medium, and tip in the granulated sugar. Bring the sugar and fruit to a boil again, and cook, stirring often, for about 20 minutes.
Because there is only one kilogram of fruit, the cooking goes much quicker. Split the vanilla bean in half, and scrape all the seeds. Add them to the jam pot and stir vigorously to disperse them. Add in the vanilla bean, and cook. After 20 minutes, remove the vanilla pod, add in the fresh lemon juice, and cook for five minutes longer. Test to see if the jam has reached the setting point either by using the saucer test, or by inserting a candy thermometer – it should reach 105°C. Pour the hot jam carefully into prepared, sterilised jars, and let them cool completely at room temperature, then store in a cool, dark place. Yields 600 grams of jam.
By Tina Vesić