Sunday, January 29, 2012

And no burnt bottom!

It must be a pretty good year for apricots. Last Summer, apricot prices never got very low, and those that were available were of quite a low standard. This year, there's a lot of nice-looking apricots around, and, while supermarket prices haven't dropped much at this stage, I've seen them priced below $2/kilo in several fruit and vege shops.

As you may have guessed, the reason I was keeping such a close eye on apricot prices is that I had apricot jam (p225) to make. The full recipe requires 2.75kg of apricots, and while I only ever intended to make a half-mix, it was still going to be a bit costly unless the prices came down.

Anyway, I stopped at one of the aforementioned fruit and vege shops last weekend and got a couple of kilo of apricots. They were quite under-ripe at the time, so I decided to leave my jam-making for a few days. As it turned out, I had quite a crazy week, and didn't get around to making jam until yesterday.

The apricots had matured nicely during the week; some had even grown up so much they were sprouting beards. I didn't need all 2kg though, and once I'd biffed out all the nasty ones, I had exactly the right amount for my half-recipe.

Having halved and stoned the apricots, I grabbed my hammer and broke open half a dozen of the stones. This bit was quite fun, but some of the stones stubbornly resisted my hammer and others sent shards flying all over the kitchen. In the end, though, I had the apricot kernels I needed.

I transferred the apricots to a large pot with some water and the apricot kernels, then placed it over a low heat until the apricots got pulpy. At this stage I added a huge amount of sugar, (the full recipe has twelve cups of sugar. Twelve!!) stirred it through the apricot pulp, and gradually brought the jam to the boil.

For the next half an hour, I allowed the jam to boil (checking frequently that it wasn't burning on the bottom, previous jam-making experience having made me somewhat paranoid) while I cleaned and sterilised some jars.

After 30 minutes, I tested the jam for setting point, and it looked like it'd be ok. I hadn't had a chance to let the jars cool down before filling them, though, and the jam sizzled and fizzed as I ladelled it into the hot jars, only just remembering to remove the apricot kernels before they got bottled with the jam.

I had some of my jam on toast this afternoon, and I'm quite pleased with it. It's a bit runny, perhaps - I've never quite got the hang of judging setting point - but it has such a beautifully rich apricot flavour: better than the average bought jam, that's for sure!

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