Growing up in humid South India, I have never come across fruits such as peaches, nectarines or apricots in my childhood. So imagine my surprise when I read that some sources believe that apricots were originally cultivated in India (the drier Northern part, of course). I love such historical tidbits of information. I don’t really know why!
Like I said, being from the south, I have never seen a fresh apricot till I came to the States. The fruit and vegetable section here is always a revelation to me and I find something new at every visit. I got an 8-oz bag of dried apricots at a Farmer’s Market here without really having a clear plan for them. Do I re-constitute and eat them? Use them in desserts? Or try my hand at making preserves or jam?
The various jam recipes I found really scared me, with all the boiling and canning hoopla involved. I remember my mom making pineapple jam. She simply stored them in clean, sterilized glass jars in the fridge. We usually started consuming them immediately, of course. So why all the fuss? Are cookbook authors just being far-sighted that people might like making large batches for gifting purposes? Or are they distancing themselves from possible backlash over spoiled food? Whatever happened to a small batch of old-fashioned refrigerator jam for a small family? Something simple to enjoy with warm baked goods.
Anyway, one should always exercise caution and common sense when consuming preserves and condiments, whether store-bought or homemade. Use a clean, dry spoon every time, close the lid tightly and store promptly back in the refrigerator, and you should be fine. Fail to do any of these, and even a perfectly canned product tends to spoil.
I had tried making some cranberry sauce/preserve last Thanksgiving, and it lasted a few weeks in the refrigerator without any issue. I believe a small batch of refrigerator jam will be no different. Here is a nice article that further emboldened me.
Now, back to the apricots. I loosely adapted this recipe, which in turn came from this book. Since it was my first ever attempt in jam making, I decided to try a small batch with just 4 ounces of dried fruit. Once re-constituted and made into a jam, this turned out to be a nice amount for us.
Jam is really quite simple. Select some good fruit, add sugar and a little citrus juice and the natural pectin in the fruit should help the process. Serious jam makers can make use of pectin powder for best results.
So, here is how I made jam. It is not perfect, mainly because the threshold between right consistency and overcooked jam is a fine line!
You will need:
- Dried apricots – 4 oz or around 120 gm
- Water – 1 1/4 cup
- Sugar – 1 1/4 cup
- Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
- Vanilla extract – 1/2 tsp (optional)
- Start by roughly chopping and soaking 4 oz of dried apricots in 1 1/4 cups of pure filtered water overnight.
- Meanwhile, clean and dry a glass jar and lid thoroughly. Soak in soapy water, wash, give it a boil on the stove maybe and let dry completely. You could use plastic containers, but would you want to eat jam stored in one?!!
- The soaked apricots would be nice and plump in the morning. Place them along with the liquid in a thick-bottomed pot, add a tablespoon of lemon juice and bring to a boil. Then cover the pot and simmer on low heat for half an hour. The smell of stewing apricots is absolutely divine!
- Once the apricots are tender, mash some of them lightly with a spoon, add 1 1/4 cups of white sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. The original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon vanilla extract for 4 oz fruit, which I felt would be very overpowering.
- Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Now cook over high heat until the liquid is reduced and the jam thickens. Watch carefully so as not to burn it.
- There are a couple of tests to determine if it is done. Place a little jam on a previously chilled plate and press with your finger. If it gels, the jam is done. If it is too runny, it needs more time. Let the jam drip from a spoon. If the last drop slides off the spoon as two little drops, the jam is done. Remove from heat.
- Skim off the scum on top or add 1/2 tbsp of butter into the jam to disperse the scum. Butter adds a nice glossiness too.
- Cool lightly in the pot for 10 minutes. Spoon jam into the clean glass jar. Allow to cool completely, close lid tightly and refrigerate.
Enjoy with warm croissants or toast.
I searched many websites and blogs on common jam-making problems. Here are some things I need to do differently next time.
- Use the largest available pot to make the jam, so that the liquid evaporates quickly and the fruit does not end up being overcooked.
- To prevent burning the jam at the bottom, wipe the bottom of the pot with a little butter.
- I think the ability to correctly determine the jam’s consistency comes with experience. Using a candy thermometer, the plate test, spoon test and all needs experience and good judgement. I think I overcooked the jam slightly. I detected a hint of crystallized sugar taste in the jam. Still, we loved it.
- I think it may be better to stop cooking while the jam is still a little bit on the runny side, as it will thicken as it cools.
- Check out these resources for more tips.
Do you have any tips for a beginner jam maker? Do let me know in the comments.
I am linking this up at these awesome blogs.
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- By Stephanie Lynn