By Bonnie Fishman
There is nothing, and I mean, nothing like plucking a perfectly ripened apricot off a sun-warmed tree, pulling it open with your fingers (check for worms!), and popping it into your mouth. I never really got the allure of fresh apricots when living in Michigan. Dried ones, yes. Most apricots that I had eaten were, well, lackluster. I didn’t get what the big deal was. Until now. I’m thinking that the ones grown and shipped around the country are picked way before their time (like every other fruit), in hopes that when they arrive at their destination in Iowa, or New Jersey, or the Dakotas, they will have ripened and taste good, okay, decent. That’s what my experience of apricots has been in the past.
We have a mature apricot tree right in front of our house that has produced a boatload of fruit. I would estimate at least 100 pounds. Most of it ripened when Bob and I were driving out to California from Michigan. By the time we got here, we were at the tail end of the run. Ha! The finale was amazing! What do you do with all this fruit besides eat it and give it away? My sisters tried just about everything. They made apricot crisp, apricot bars, apricot barbecue sauce, apricot chutney, dehydrated apricots, oven-dried apricots, purées, stews, pitted and frozen apricots for another time.
My sister Marcia and I have a yearly tradition that began when we lived in northern Michigan for the summer. Whatever fruit was in season, we would buy it by the box and make jam together. Two things about making jam with someone else. First, if you have two pairs of hands, the process is much easier. We each have our tasks. I purée and measure the fruit, sterilize the jars, and cap them when they are filled. Marcia cooks the jam and fills the jars, using a ladle and a special jam funnel.
Second, this is a wonderful project to do when staying at home, whether it’s from the pandemic, bad weather, or just wanting to do something fun and delicious with a friend or your kids. We try to fill small jars so we can share the wealth with more people. Who doesn’t love receiving a gift of wonderfully homemade jam made from a lucious fruit?
About the recipe: This is a basic jam recipe. What can be altered is the type of fruit or a combination of fruit, the addition of citrus zest, spices such as cinnamon, lavender, mint, or even fresh grated ginger. What cannot be changed is the procedure or the amount of sugar. Many people freak out when they see how much sugar actually goes in jam. If you’re one of them, buy the low sugar pectin. You will get good results. Another tip: use a large pot to cook the jam because it bubbles up. Also, be scrupulous with your jar boiling, wiping, and handling. Sanitation is of utmost importance when preserving food. One last thing: if you’re inclined to do this project, I suggest making more than one batch. You will already be set up with the boiling water, a funnel, a ladle and a jam buddy. Just go for it!
Yield: About 6 8-oz. jars
4 c. puréed or chopped apricots, very ripe
3 Tbs. lemon juice
4 1/2 Tbs. pectin
5 c. sugar, measured out in a bowl
Have the jars and lids ready. Fill a large pot with water, bring it to a boil. Submerge the jars in the water. Boil for 5 minutes. Put the lids in a smaller pot with boiling water. Using tongs, fish out the jars, inverting them on a clean tea towel. Do the same for the lids.
Put the fruit and lemon juice in a large pot, about 8 quarts. Gradually stir in the pectin. Bring the fruit to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down over high heat. Add the sugar all at once, stirring constantly. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, continue stirring. Turn heat off. Skim the foam from the surface. (This is edible but not attractive for the jars. Keep in a dish in the fridge and use as jam.)
A good pair of hot pads will be needed to handle the jars. Put a large jam funnel in each jar, ladle in the jam to fill leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the top edges with a clean cloth if needed. Put on the top with lid. Turn jars upside down for 15 minutes. When turned upright, eventually you will hear a popping sound, and you will know the seal is a good one.
Pour in the sugar ~ bring to a rolling boil
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.