Today was a hard day. I said good bye to a friend that left this world far, far too soon. She was an incredible woman and the loss has reverberated through my groups of friends and the larger community.
I took Aurelia out of school after half a day and we spent the day together, kissing away each other’s tears and sharing ice cream. I didn’t work out, I didn’t get any household tasks done, and long after I should have put Aurelia down for bed, we were up at the dinner table, eating toast with the apricot jam we made last night. I am holding her closer and loving her moments more than ever.
Yesterday, the jam making was a little stressful. It’s difficult to stand at a stove and stir every few minutes for an hour and a half with a toddler at bedtime. I could have planned that better. But, I had about 10 pounds of fresh apricots from my grandparents’ farm and needed to do something with them promptly. I could think of no better way to use a great number of fruit than to dehydrate many and make jam with the rest. Dehydrated fruit is perfect for snacks, standing as the dried, sweet number in a savory dish (think tagines), or in baked breads. Jam is overused I think and too often more sugar than anything else. I wanted to make something that would use less sugar and would carry a concentrated apricot flavor so less would need to be used. With such a declarative condiment, plain yogurt or pork or toast are transformed into something memorable.
First up, dehydrate 4 pounds. The apricots are simply washed, pitted, halved, and arranged in my dehydrator. It took about 28 hours for them to dry properly at 135 degrees. Once done, they were swept into 2 quart sized zip lock bags.
Now a note about this jam – leave the recipe as is, or run it through a fine mesh sieve after it’s done to press out most of the pulp and make more of a silky, thick syrup instead. It’s just a matter of texture. For my uses, the smoother consistency is best. But I was nearly tempted to leave it full of chunky fruit and make a dozen biscuits to pair with it. That would have been trouble and not at all the “concentrated moderation” I was advocating a breath ago. This is also a barely thinner than regular jam because the sugar is far less than most apricot jam recipes. David Lebovitz would have me using 18 cups of sugar for the 6 pounds of fruit. By comparison, this uses hardly much at all. Less than a cup per pound of apricots. So if you’d like a more solid, sugary jam, by all means, up the sugar. Life’s too short to argue over what we eat some days.
6 lbs apricots, cleaned, pitted, and halved
4 Tbs fresh lemon juice
4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup water
First, put a small plate in the freezer for later. Once you have your apricots prepped, place them and the water in a large pot and cook over medium heat, stirring every few minutes. After about 30 minutes, when the apricots are getting soft and juicy, add the sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Lower the heat to medium-low and stir every few minutes, letting the fruit cook down into a thick syrupy jam. Keep stirring every few minutes. After an hour, when the jam looks thick and is slightly-jelled, turn off the heat and put a small amount of jam on the chilled plate. It should not run on the plate when turned. Put back in the freezer for a few minutes, then do the nudge test: If the jam mounds and wrinkles, it’s done. If not, continue to cook, then re-test the jam until it reaches that consistency. (You can use a candy thermometer if you wish. The finished jam will be about 220ºF, 104ºC.) Once done, stir in the lemon juice and ladle the jam into clean jars. Cover tightly and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, refrigerate until ready to use. This should keep unopened in the fridge for several months, even up to a year.