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Kids usually like red jams, at least I did when I was one. Strawberry, raspberry, cherry; once I was hugely let down by redcurrant which was too sour and pippy; and I didn’t quite trust black jams with the exception of blueberry. Green jams were a complete mistake I thought: gooseberry, greengage, quince – the names alone sounded unappetising. And apricot was the only yellow jam I favoured, with orange marmalade being my arch-enemy.
Apricots make excellent jam indeed which is interesting as they are probably the least juicy fruit of all. Have you ever heard of apricot juice? Exactly. They are neat to stone and unmessy to eat, quite unlike their cousins peaches and nectarines. They are also not particularly high in the pectin content, which is the fibre capable of binding, jellying, jamming and solidifying fruit mush. Interestingly, there is more pectin in under ripe fruit so the ideal for jamming will be a mix of very ripe, for flavour, with a bit green, for the binding agent.
I added a stick of cinnamon and some orange juice and zest to my jam which works very well. It is also responsible for an added magical factor: the smells whilst cooking the jam suddenly transport you from the middle of summer into Christmas!
apricot jamServings: makes 2 x 1lb jarsTime: a couple of hours
- 600g (1 ½ pound) fresh ripe apricots
- 500g (over a pound) jam sugar
- 1 orange
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- a knob (1 oz., 10g) cold butter
1. This quantity of fruit will make 2 x 1lb jars. Have them ready, washed and with well-fitting lids.
2. Do not wash the apricots; just remove the stones. Layer apricot halves in a large preserving pan or a stockpot, covering them with the sugar. Leave them to macerate for an hour or so.
3. Put the pan over very low heat for about 15 minutes to allow sugar to dissolve. Check by stirring to the bottom – if you can’t feel the crystals, it’s ready. In the meantime scrape a few orange peel ribbons with a vegetable peeler and juice the orange. Add the peel and the juice to the apricots with the cinnamon stick and turn up the heat.
4. Bring the jam to a vigorous boil over high heat and keep boiling (watch for splatter!) for about 20 minutes. Test on a clean cold plate: drop a blob of jam and let it cool completely. Pinch it between your fingers: if you’re almost able to lift a droplet, it’s ready.
5. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the butter to disperse scum, and let it stand for 15 minutes. During that time sterilise the jars in very low oven (80C).
6. Fish out the cinnamon stick. Fill the jars to just below the rim; jam funnel is very handy to avoid major mess.
7. Twist the lids on and let them cool completely before storing.