Wednesday, August 05, 2009

How to make apricot jam



They say third time’s the charm and it was for me in my attempt at making jam. And, oh, what a jam! I made possibly the best-ever apricot jam.

The first time I tried making jam was last summer. I had a big batch of bruised strawberries and so I made a strawberry jam, following the directions on the pectin box. I must not follow directions very well because what I ended up with was a thick gummy blob. The flavor was good but the texture was just wrong.

So traumatized by my first-foray into the jam-making world, I didn’t gather enough courage to try again until a few weeks ago. This time, I followed a friend’s instructions for freezer jam with a huge haul of sour cherries. But again, I failed, as I let the mixture boil too long. After the jam cooled in the jar what I had was a rock-solid piece of candy, which wasn't very appropriate for spreading on toast.

I am not one to give up, however, and last weekend when I saw a gorgeous display of apricots at the farmers’ market, I decided to try making jam one more time.

I asked the farmer for advice on making apricot jam, and she told me that the key to making jam was to not over think it. I'm certainly guilty of over thinking things, so that was wisdom I could use. I then asked her if she had any other advice and she said, “People who don’t use Sure-Jell are snobs!”



Well, that was not what I wanted to hear! I have no problem with Sure-Jell, but after my pectin disaster last summer I wanted my jam to have a softer set, so I asked her if it was possible to make a decent jam without it. “Of course,” she replied. “Just make sure you have enough sugar.

How much is enough sugar? I heard everything from a one-to-one ratio of sugar to uncooked fruit to a 3/4-to-one ratio of sugar to uncooked fruit. Wanting to keep my jam slightly tart, I went with the latter.

After slicing my apricots and removing the pits, I measured how much I had and then threw them in a large pot. I added 3/4 cup of sugar for every cup of sliced fruit and one tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of fruit. To later test for doneness, I place a plate in the freezer.

I placed the pot on a burner, turned the heat to medium low and stirred the mixture every few minutes. It became juicy. And then the fruit began to turn to mush. There was foam, but I just kept stirring. After about an hour, the mixture was like a thick sauce, with a few small chunks of fruit but for the most part soft and smooth.

Thinking that the jam looked good and not wanting it to get too overcooked, I took out my plate from the freezer and plopped a dollop of jam on it to see if it was ready. After a minute, I turned the plate to see if it ran, and the jam did. So I cooked it for five more minutes and then repeated the frozen-plate test. This time, the jam stayed solid. The jam was done.



I packed it into sterilized jars, putting a chopped chipotle with one teaspoon of adobo sauce into one of the jars for the most incredible spicy-sweet jam, and then put my jars in the refrigerator. And the next morning I had the most beautifully set, tart and fragrant apricot jam to put on my peanut-butter toast.

Now, I’m sure that there are more scientific methods out there that employ thermometers and timers, but I found this method worked fine for me. But I’m still just a beginner, so please let me know in the comments what tips you have for making jam, so we can all become better at this age-old preservation process!

Apricot jam

Ingredients:
1 pound of sliced apricots, pits removed (4 cups)
3 1/2 cups of sugar
4 tablespoons of lemon juice (about one lemon) plus zest

Method:
Place the apricots, sugar, lemon juice and zest in a pot, and add a couple of tablespoons of water.

Place a plate into the freezer.

Turn the heat to medium low, and stirring every five minutes or so, let the fruit cook. It will first get juicy with the fruit intact, and then the fruit will start to disintegrate. As it cooks, there will be foam on top, but just keep stirring, don’t worry about skimming it.

After about an hour, the jam will be about two or three shades darker and will be smooth and thick, with a few lumps here and there. When it coats the back of a spoon, take out the plate from the freezer and place a dollop of the jam on the plate. If it runs, cook it for five more minutes and then test it again. But if becomes solid, then the jam is done.

Place in a sterilized half-pint jar(s).

When it comes to room temperature, put on the lid and then place in the refrigerator. After a few hours it will be more solid and ready for eating.

Makes about one pint.

Note: If you want to jazz up the flavor, you can add chipotle chiles in adobo, cloves, a cinnamon stick or a vanilla bean while it cooks.

The key, that I’ve learned, is to not over cook it. But if you do, and the next day you find that you have a jar of rock-hard candy instead of jam, all is not lost! You can place the jar into a pot of water and let it come to a boil. The jam will heat up and become liquid, and then you can slowly add more water to it until it’s more runny. Try the freezer test again and then repack it. (This is how I eventually saved my sour-cherry jam).

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51 comments:

Gabrielaskitchen said...

Get your jam on girl! It’s all about the apricots this week, right!?! I woke up very early this morning to bake Apricot Pastelitos. …Que precioso son los chabacanos…

Aline said...

I made this one last week:

http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/peach-rosemary-jam

It was not just super easy but also amazingly scrumptious!
Everybody who tried it loved it and I was lucky enough to get the rosemary from my own garden.

Jennywenny said...

Thankfully my mum and my grandma made jam a lot so I've learned from them. It seems to be a bit like bread, you cant really follow a recipe, its all by feel. Unfortunately I dont always have much luck either, I generally end up burning it when I walk off and do something else and come back to an incinerated saucepan full of black goo!

radish said...

yum, so glad you attempted it again! i had a few bad pie crust experiences and it took awhile to try again! this looks delectable. i love apricot jam!

ARLENE said...

Good for you! I've never made jam because I'm terrified of the whole canning thing, convinced I'll give everyone botulism.

Melissa said...

Nice little jam session you have going on there. I love making jam in the summer.

Whitney said...

I hope there are some apricots left at the market in Chicago when I get back from my week in TX. This looks delish.

Soma said...

I have made so much jams & preserves this year, all without pectin; just sugar & lemon juice.. yes the end moment seems a little difficult, but it worked out just fine for me. I wanted pectin for the watermelon jelly becoz of the all the water it released.

after reading this, i think i will make some apricot jam. looks beautiful.

Mary said...

I tend to over think things too so I completely get that - it's the Virgo. Anyway, it looks perfect! Enjoy!!

Anonymous said...

Great post! This week I also dove into this world--I have a fig bush and am making fig preserves because I have so many and even after sharing with the birds--I have to do something! The whole sterilize the jar thing scared me--and then boiling the jars once they are filled--but it worked--the jars make a popping sound when they are sealed. I bought the pectin also--but then just followed some 100 year old recipe I found on the net and did it with sugar and lemon juice...
My dad who cans alot told me just to boil the jars after they are filled for five minutes- I did ten to make sure--it all turned out ok. If the top of the jar pops up--then that's when you know it didn't turn out--as long as they stay put--your canning was successful.

Farmer Jen said...

Well, I guess I am a jam "snob" because I never make jam with added pectin, just fruit and sugar with a little fresh lemon juice depending on the fruit used. I've been doing it this way for 10 summers now. I like the taste better without the added pectin. I like to taste the fruit more than the sugar.

For apricot, peach & plum jam I use 3/4 C sugar for each cup of crushed fruit. For other berries I use 2/3 C sugar for each cup of crushed berries. I think the berries have more natural pectin than the other fruits do so you can get away with using less sugar.

I made apricot jam a few weeks ago and cut back on the sugar a bit too much (2/3 C sugar to 1 C apricots) because I wanted it a bit tart. It still gelled and tastes great, but took longer to gel than usual and it was a little softer than it usually is too. I make about 8 half pints at a time and can my jam in a water bath canner.

I'll be doing a post on jam soon and will post the name of a really good book that I use as a resource. Can't think of the name right now.

Elizabeth said...

This looks lovely! There's nothing quite like apricot jam on toasted English muffins. What a great way to savor the flavors of a summer fruit that is only in season for a few weeks. Bravo!

Krulle said...

Well done! I love making jam myself...my mom's been making jam since I've been a little girl - try tomato-jam...oo yummy! the only tip I have - my mom taught me that if you scoop off the foam, it removes the bit of sourness in the jam - depends on how you like it.. Have fun!

ToyLady said...

Would you believe I've been making jams now for over 20 years, and I've NEVER made one without using pectin?

Maybe it's time to try . . . thanks for the inspiration!

lisa said...

Sounds fantastic! Apricots do thicken nicely without any added pectin. I want to taste the chipotle version.

MaryR in KY said...

It looks wonderful - apricot jam is my favorite! I've canned for years, but just within the past few years have I tried jams. I've been very successful using Sure Jell Certo Premium Liquid Fruit Pectin following their enclosed instructions. So far I've made blueberry jam and hot pepper jelly and they were better than anything I've ever purchased. I've also just canned Bread & Butter Pickles for the first time. It was really very easy - I think you'd have fun with it.

tbsamsel said...

Best apricots I've ever had were in Grand Junction, Colorado. I'd say the first two weeks of July are the peak of the season there.

Ted

kayd said...

I look forward to your email each week being a Texan living "downunder".

I am so glad that you gave us this one as I have an apricot tree which will be covered with fruit very soon. Usually the neighbors get most of them as I can't eat all of them. Now PLEASE, tell me what to do with my two bushels of lemons I picked yesterday!

I read the squash recipe and I got so homesick,but because I can't get yellow crook neck here, I made enchiladas and Mexican rice for dinner. No beans, as it is really hard to find pinto beans in Australia. Just keep writing. I feel like I know you so well, but that's how Texans are. We make "fast" friends over the tomatoes in the supermarket.

kayd said...

I have to add something else about jam making. If you don't want to use the boxed pectin, just add an apple or some apple peelings. Pectin is found in all fruit but the apple has the most and the boxed stuff is apple pectin. The apple is mild and won't change the flavor of the main fruit at all, just help it set. That's what our grandmothers did to make jelly and jams.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Garbrielaskitchen--The apricots this year are incredible!

Aline--Now why have I never thought to pair peaches with rosemary? Outstanding!

Jennywenny--Oh, no! That sounds like it would be mess to clean up! But I agree, it's a very intuitive process.

Radish--Yep, perseverance is key!

Arlene--I'm keeping this in the refrigerator as I'm still not secure in my skills.

Melissa--I'm a convert and now I love it, too!

Whitney--I bet there will be--we just started seeing them in NY a couple of weeks ago.

Soma--Thank you! And you would definitely need pectin for a watermelon jam--so much water.

Mary--I'm not a Virgo, which is probably good for me because if I were I'd probably be even more of an overthinker!

Elizabeth--I agree--it's so delicious on English muffins. I love waking up to apricot jam!

Krulle--I will definitely try tomato jam! And thanks for the tip about the foam.

ToyLady--If I can do it, you definitely can do it!

Lisa--The chipotle version is wonderful--so smoky with a bit of heat. I put some on a pork chop and swooned!


MaryR in KY--I definitely want to make hot pepper jam when those come into season. And I've made refrigerator pickles before--so easy!

TBSamsel--I had no idea that Colorado was known for its apricots. I'll have to try them sometime.

Kayd--Happy to help. But I can't believe there aren't pinto beans in Australia. It seems the climate there is similar to our Southwest part of the states--surely they could grow there. And if I had two bushels of lemon I'd make lemonade, lemon pie, pickled lemons and lemon curd. And what a great tip about the apples!

TX Blue Eyed Bandit said...

I live in the TX panhandle, and we didn't have apricots this year! My Moms' back yard looks like a small orchard-full of apricot and peach trees, so I've really missed them this year!! But, I may have to (forgive me Lord) buy some and fix a jar or two!! I love your site!! I've always been too busy to learn computer stuff, but I LOVE your stories and recipes!! My husband works in the oilfield, and when it started slowing down a few months ago, we considered moving out of TX. But, when I started reading your site, it honestly made me pinch pennies even tighter, because, I knew I'd never be happy anywhere else--I'm tooooo much Texan! Yes, I'd be the one easy to spot in any other state, because I'd be the one with the cowboy boots on!ha! Thanks for reminding me how deeply devoted of a Texan that I really am!! AND, our families must have known somewhere down the line--the cooking, recipes, and all are too close to my upraising!!

Tommy said...

I had an apricot jam moment a few weeks ago after watching Anna Olson on Food Network Canada make some and jumped right in.

I checked her recipe and felt like it called for way too much sugar( as I think your's does) and cut it in half. Used half as much pectin as she called for as well. Results were awesome. btw, I added a few ginger slices for flavour.

I think it would be far too sweet if I used all the sugar it called for.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Garbrielaskitchen--The apricots this year are incredible!

Aline--Now why have I never thought to pair peaches with rosemary? Outstanding!

Jennywenny--Oh, no! That sounds like it would be mess to clean up! But I agree, it's a very intuitive process.

Radish--Yep, perseverance is key!

Arlene--I'm keeping this in the refrigerator as I'm still not secure in my skills.

Melissa--I'm a convert and now I love it, too!

Whitney--I bet there will be--we just started seeing them in NY a couple of weeks ago.

Soma--Thank you! And you would definitely need pectin for a watermelon jam--so much water.

Mary--I'm not a Virgo, which is probably good for me because if I were I'd probably be even more of an overthinker!

Elizabeth--I agree--it's so delicious on English muffins. I love waking up to apricot jam!

Krulle--I will definitely try tomato jam! And thanks for the tip about the foam.

ToyLady--If I can do it, you definitely can do it!

Lisa--The chipotle version is wonderful--so smoky with a bit of heat. I put some on a pork chop and swooned!


MaryR in KY--I definitely want to make hot pepper jam when those come into season. And I've made refrigerator pickles before--so easy!

TBSamsel--I had no idea that Colorado was known for its apricots. I'll have to try them sometime.

Kayd--Happy to help. But I can't believe there aren't pinto beans in Australia. It seems the climate there is similar to our Southwest part of the states--surely they could grow there. And if I had two bushels of lemon I'd make lemonade, lemon pie, pickled lemons and lemon curd. And what a great tip about the apples!



Anon--I'll have to try boiling the jars next time. And I can't wait until we get figs so I can make fig jam. Yum!

Farmer Jam--Ha! That was just one person's opinion--I don't think you're a snob! And I'll have to try it with 2/3 cup of sugar. Can't wait to hear the name of the book!

Tx Blue Eyed Bandit--That's how you can spot me in NYC--I'm always wearing my cowboy boots! And I heard there was little peach and apricot crop in Texas this year--that's a shame. Thanks for the kind words and good to hear y'all are staying put in Texas!

Tommy--I think we Southerners just like things sweeter than you as you've commented on my sugar quantities before! That said, if you can make it with a smaller amount, I'm all for that--I want to still taste the tart fruit. And the ginger does sound awesome.

Nicole said...

First of all, love your blog! (native texan here, living in Portland, OR)

Several folks have chimed in on the topic of pectin, so I won't belabor the point. But, why use pectin when you don't have to? It requires that you use a lot more sugar, which in turn, means using less fruit. What's snobby about not wanting to use a ton (sometimes up to 7 cups) of sugar to make a a few pints of raspberry jam? I just came across a great book that doesn't rely on commercial pectin to make great jam (and no, I'm not getting a kick back!) :) called The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves: 200 Classic and Contemporary Recipes Showcasing the Fabulous Flavors of Fresh Fruits by Linda Ziedrich. She also has a great pickling book. http://www.amazon.com/Jams-Jellies-Other-Sweet-Preserves/dp/1558324062/ref=pd_sim_b_6

bonnet said...

Just wanted to say thank you for your wonderful blog! And while your apricot jam with chipotle sounds irresistable, I would also LOVE to know how you make your lemon pickles!

bluejeangourmet said...

I'm doing a happy jam dance! I, too, have had serious jam troubles in the past but you (& the late-summer gorgeous fruit-haul) are inspiring me to give it another go.

also, I can think of a million yummy things to do with that sweet-spicy chipotle-apricot jam, like pork tenderloin sandwiches?

suzinoz said...

Apricot chipotle jam? Genius! I love that idea. I come from a long line of jam makers, but have only ever made one batch myself several years ago. I need to give it another whirl. I love apricot jam!

Also, I'm a Texan living in Australia like kayd above--and I agree, it is difficult to find pinto beans here. I've had to use borlotti beans which are similar to pinto beans, but not quite the same. =(

Keep the recipes coming!

Anna said...

Did you peel the apricots? It doesn't look like it, and I'd be so much more inclined to make jam with this diminuitive fruit if I didn't have to peel it...

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Nicole--I didn't realize that pectin required you to use more sugar. And thanks for the book tip!

Bonnet--I don't have one, I've just eaten them but let me ask around and see if I can find one.

Blue Jean Gourmet--Yep, it's pretty awesome on pork!

Suzinoz--You should definitely give it another whirl--it's a blast!

Anna-I didn't peel the apricots, which makes it all the more easy.

Marjorie said...

I love apricot jam, apricot anything really. I love the idea of chipotle in it and will get some apricots next trip to the market and give it a try. I also love the idea of using an apple instead of pectin, which I have never used, I use lemon juice.

I made strawberry jam and used Alice Waters recipe from Chezz Panisse (fruit). Sun-Dried Strawberry Jam.
I didn't cook it in the sun, instead I put the jam in a very low oven for about 8 hours. Delicious!

I think I will do the same with the apricots and see what happens.

Alta said...

I am a jam newbie...never made it. I'm considering buying a slew of pears at the farmer's market tomorrow from a farmer who has emailed me to tell me he has loads of them, and that might go into jam! I do love the idea of chipotle apricot jam, that sounds absolutely wonderful! Wish I knew where to get decent apricots in Dallas...if there is such a thing. Most are flavorless around here for some reason.

deena said...

I've done loads of canning (and also accidentally candied sour cherry jam when doing the long-cook, sugar-set method!). Recently some friends and I canned 80 lbs of apricot jam:

http://mostlyfoodstuffs.blogspot.com/2009/08/apricot-jam.html

I'm a big fan of Pomona Pectin -- it's reliable, a good set, and gels based on a combination of two pectin agents, rather than a particular sugar/acid ratio, so you can sweeten the jam just to your taste. Added bonus is that you don't have to cook it that long to set, which leads to both a fresher-tasting jam, as well as a more manageable time frame when you're making ridiculous amounts.

Jen said...

This sounds not only delicious but easy enough for me, a total novice, to try. Apricot jam is one of my favorites and I especially enjoy eating it on peanut butter toast!

I live in Houston and my grandma used to make something called watermelon rind preserves. She passed away in May and I managed to not get her recipe and boy do I regret it. The consistency was a sort of syrup with chunks of rind and she would pour it over toast on a plate. Ohhh man was it ever yummy!! I would be so grateful if you (or any of your readers) had a tried and true recipe I could attempt!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Marjorie--Oh, let me know how it turns out for you! And I haven't tried using apples either, but plan to on my next batch of jam.

Alta--That's a shame about Big D apricots--you'd think with the peaches being so good from Texas the apricots would be as well. And give jam-making a try--it's wonderful to look at a jar and say to yourself, "I made this!"

Deena--80 lbs? WOW! I think my Whole Foods sells Pomona, perhaps I'll use that when I make some pepper jam.

Jen--I'm pretty sure my great-grandmother had a recipe for watermelon rind pickles--let me see if I can my hands on it and I'll post something.

suburban housefrau said...

My grandmother makes THE best apricot jam from her trees. I so miss it... it's a little hard to find, and many people have never even HAD apricot jam!

Melanie said...

This looks so good, and the photos are lovely.

MolleenCarie said...

I'm so glad to see you're still blogging! I first found you when looking up a recipe for Chicken Fried Steak - my husband's fave - and it's now my go-to recipe. A girlfriend of mine just made HM WW tortillas and I wanted to link back to the recipe from here I'd tried a couple of times. Anyway, your blog looks great! It's really taken off since I last stopped in. Keep up the good work. :)

Chickenista said...

I just got done reading your post from may 2008, how to render lard. Thank you so much!! I just had two pigs butchered and I have all this fat but no idea how to use it. Til now and it sounds so simple. I'm gathering up jars and what not to start today! So excited♥

Knitopia said...

Jen, I vaguely remember a book with a watermelon rind recipe in it. Try Edna Lewis & Scott Peacock or the Lee Brothers.

I recently made my first-ever jam, apricot riesling jam! Seeing your success gave me confidence. I'm storing my three jars in the fridge, though, because I'm not that confident!

Janell said...

Jenn, I have a recipe for watermelon rind preserves that I learned from my grandmother, and I have made them for many, many years. e-mail me at momcat@reachone.com and I'll send it to you, and anyone else that wants it.
For those of you who haven't made pear preserves, I have an easy receipe for that too.
Janell

sk said...

I just found your blog and I love it already!
I didn't read the other comments, so I don't know if this has been mentioned already, but have you ever tried Pomona's Universal Pectin? I swear by it for jams and jellies. It jells with any amount of sweetener.

Good luck, and please keep sharing your stories!

Carolyn said...

This is great, I have never made jam before and I feel like you have gone through the gauntlet for me already. I'm ready! Thx for the inspiration.

Bee said...

I've just been writing a post on making crabapple jelly. I planted a tree last year and just got my first harvest.

In England, jam-making seems to be very popular. They actually sell jam sugar -- with added pectin. Muslin is not a strange word for eccentrics.

Isn't it the most gratifying thing?

I love the chipotle twist you put in this jam. Yum.

DebraleeJoy said...

Did you peel the apricots or leave the peel on?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

DebraleeJoy--I leave on the peel.

Anonymous said...

I'm not real big on apricots, but dang that looks good. My sister and I made fig jam, raspberry-fig jam, and strawberry-fig jam this year (big fig crop from a couple of scrawny trees) and added a teaspoon of butter to each batch to cut down on the foam. Buddy, it worked like a charm.

Alison said...

For apricots, I use half a cup of sugar per 1 cup of apricots. Apricots are naturally full of pectin. Keeping the sugar amount down helps make the jam tart.

I also use a hand-held blender at the very end to dissolve the left over chunks. I prefer smooth jam.

Anonymous said...

My grandma used to make apricot jam every summer. I was spending every single summer with her and I have some memories of it. I really liked that she used to put the nuts from the pit in the jam. I was always asking her to save the pits for me because I like to crack and eat them, and she started putting them in the jam at some point. Whole. Maybe one out of 10 or out of 20 would be bitter, and I would spit it, but if they go in the jam, you can't really know. After the jam is made the best part still is to pick all the nuts in there with a teaspoon. The other thing she does is put cream of tartar in the jam at the end after it has reached a setting point I think. This prevents it from crystallizing when all you are using is sugar.
Dani

herebutforfortune said...

Arlene and others inhibited from canning by concerns about botulism, I relate to and would like to assure by passing along what experts - FDA et al - say about botulism that makes it safe to can, even badly, the above recipe.

Botulism spores are present on almost all produce but only grow toxic in anaerobic, alkaline environments, hence the danger of improperly canned vegetables and meats, and even bottled oils to which you've added a sprig of some herb.

The worst able to grow in improperly canned acidic [below pH 4] environments is said to be mold, which, unlike botulism, is both visible to the naked eye AND nontoxic. (Penicillin, for one mold, is partial to citrus.)

Reportedly, as with hard cheeses, frugal cooks customarily scrape off the mold atop fruit preserves-gone-moldy and eat what's beneath - that's how safe if unappetizing, experts say it is to eat preserved fruits - but only fruits as commonly defined. Botanically defined fruits such as squash and pumpkin, for two, are NOT free of botulism risk when canned wrong.

Hope this helps :)

Allison said...

I just made this apricot yam recipe and it turned out perfectly! It was also my first time making jam. Thanks for this recipe; it's was super easy and I will try other jams this way. I live in NM and just discovered your blog. Love it...

Karen said...

I just got 21 lbs. of apricots from Bountiful Baskets. I've never attempted making jam on my own, but have so many fond memories of making it with my mom years ago. I think I will spend tomorrow (Mother's Day) making it with my girls.
Thanks for the inspiration!

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