Damn! That’s mighty fine jam

Pic courtesy browniegirlblog.com

Pic courtesy browniegirlblog.com

They say that laughter is the jam on the toast of life. It adds flavour, keeps it from being too dry, and makes it easier to swallow. Certainly, when it comes to spreading the joy it doesn’t get more gratifying then good ol’ fashioned home-made apricot jam.

Our Bulida apricots are now in full harvest and, oh boy!, are these blushing beauties something to write home about. At once sweet and enticingly tart, they’re ideal for use in purees, curries, chutneys and, of course, jam. I put some feelers out for the definitive apricot jam recipes but discovered that there seem to be as many as there are varieties of apricot. Of course, most share the standard equal fruit-to-sugar base, although farm friend Colleen Grove, aka the Browniegirl, uses less sugar and, supplements, instead, with vanilla and ginger, which lends her jam a fragrant Oriental undertone – just imagine that spread on warm crepes, topped with a dollop of mascarpone and served with a stiff espresso.

While the jury is out on the apricot-to-sugar ratio, both Colleen and fellow foodie Debra Aukett from Port Elizabeth agree that the trick to rustic farm-style chunky jam is to steep the fruit overnight in the sugar. This pre-soaking firms up the apricots, ensuring the fruit pieces stay intact when it comes to making the jam. Debra also pops in a few of the kernels from inside the apricot pips into the simmering jam as not only do these add a lovely, slightly bitter almond taste but the pectin they contain aids the setting process.

Both Joburg friend Moira Barnes and Wendy Hudson from Knysna also add a few tablespoons of lemon juice to their jam recipe – again, this is for the pectin, which, incidentally also preserves the colour of the jam, preventing it from darkening on setting.

Truth is, apricot jam is a great one for the experimental cook – people throw any number of things into the preserving pot (think orange rind, zest or juice, ground cinnamon or cardamom pods, even grated carrot or almond slivers, or, better yet, a shot of Amaretto. In our house, though, you could be lynched for messing with grandma’s tried-and-tested recipe so here follows the true unadulterated version, for you to do with what you please.

Apricot JamApricot jam

This jam is quite chunky and not too set – the way the French like it.

  1. Halve and stone the fruit, keeping back about 5 of the pips. Crack them open with a hammer or nutcracker and remove the kernels.
  2. Place the fruit and sugar into a preserving pan or your largest, deepest saucepan. Squeeze over the lemon, give everything a stir, then leave to steep overnight.
  3. Bring a small pan of water to the boil and blanch the kernels. Peel them, then break into two and add to the fruit.
  4. Place the pan of fruit over a low heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up to high and boil for 20 minutes or until the fruit has thickened. Stir frequently to prevent the jam from burning on the bottom.
  5. Allow the jam to cool for a moment, then spoon into sterilised jars, making sure each jar gets at least one kernel. Cover and seal while still hot, then leave to cool and refrigerate until use. Once open, store in the fridge.

Makes approx 3 jars

Tip: To sterilise your jars, wash them in hot, soapy water, rinse, then place on a baking tray in a low oven to dry completely. Keep them warm until you are ready to fill them.

Note: High in vitamin B17, apricot seeds are often taken as an immunity booster by cancer sufferers. However, they also contain traces of cyanide, a poison – the Food Standards Agency (UK) advises not to consume more than two bitter apricot kernels a day.

Our Bulidas are now all harvested, so our special ‘Farm Gate’ offer has been withdrawn. However, we will let you know when the sweet big Bebeco apricots are ready in early January – they are ideal for drying and preserving. Watch our Products page for details.

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