With three young children to look after, I often don’t have the time to make a batch of jam start to finish,Â so for the last two years, I have made jam in stages.Â Â Today was prep day for Apricot-Orange Jam – recipe at the end.Â (The girls were nabbing and eating apricots off the counter the whole time!)
Apricots are so tender and can turn so quickly, I like to process them as soon as I get them home.Â (If it must wait until the next morning, I lay them out in a single later on a clean kitchen towel, with all of the bruised or nicked ones to one side (afterall, these are still perfectly good for jam after the soft spots are discarded).)
First, enough fruit is washed and chopped to equal 8 cupsÂ (a few “less ripe” apricots are added in because they contain more pectin, and this old-fashioned jam uses only the natural pectin in the fruit.)Â and put in a freezer zipper-bag.Â Then, the orange zest (I always zest with a microplane – I can’t stand big, bitter chunks of zest in my jam!), freshly-squeezed orange and lemon juices, are added to the bag.Â The bag is then gently mushed a bit to distribute the juice (this keeps the fruit from browning).
All included ingredients – and the amount of sugar and pectin (if any) needed to make the batch of jam – are written on the bag, as are a few notes to remind me approximately how long to cook that batch before it sets up, etc.Â Then, the bag goes in the freezer until I have time to make the jam – hopefully later this week!
Larksong’s Natural Apricot-Orange Jam
8 cups washed, chopped apricots
Zest of 1 large orange or two small juice oranges (zested with a microplane)
1/3 cup of freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 cups granulated sugar
Directions (this excludes the canner prep and jar sterilization, which must occur simultaneously) :
1.Â Combine all ingredients except sugar ( that means everything that was frozen in the zipper bag) in a large, heavy-bottomed pan (I use my All-Clad).Â Mash and cook on medium until apricots begin to steam and break down.Â (At this point, depending on your preference, you could run the fruit pulp through a food-mill to remove the skins.Â I think they are delicate enough to break down fine, and often keep them in.)
2.Â Add sugar, and bring mixture to a boil.Â Boil, stirring and scraping down sides,Â for approx 25-30 minutes (candy thermometer should read 220 F), or until jam reaches the setting point (put some on a spoon, and set it in the fridge for a minute to see if it has set).
3.Â Fill 9 to 11Â one-half pint jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace, add lids and rings, and process in a rolling water bath for 5 min.Â Store in a dark place, or jam may darken over time.
4.Â Enjoy (I especially like it on a toasted English muffin with ricotta cheese)!
(If I can get the time, and find some more beautiful apricots, I hope to make and post the recipes for Apricot Brandy, Brandied-Apricot Jam, and Apricot-Lime Jam as well.)
P.S. -I am always up for a canning party.Â Any Portlanders or Vancouverites, you are welcome bring your fruit and jars and we can make some serious batches of jam and salsa and enjoy each others’ company!