It has been a long time coming.
I've finally found the nerve and patience to make some jam. Actually, these may be preserves, I'm really not sure of the distinction. All I know, is that this, my second time around with making jam, was way easier than I could have imagined.
I do want to give you a bit of information about me and jam, jelly or any fruit-item not served in its original format. It was only within the last six or seven years that I became a fan of fruit mixed into anything, let alone cooked down and spread on stuff. I can't pinpoint the exact dish, but I'm pretty positive it had to do with some kind of pork loin, and then soon after that a tart of some sort. I still don't love fruit mixed into things like yogurt, baked goods or cereal, but I have come a long way.
The jam session (yes, I meant it to sound like that) didn't even begin until after 10pm on a Monday night. My man and I were out to dinner and discussing what to do next. Having just consumed a good amount of Indian food, dessert was out of the question. It being a weeknight, drinks, too, were off the list.
I asked Mr. CM if he'd be interested in making jam. He very enthusiastically said yes. We headed to the market for one more pound of apricots, lemons and more sugar. As we walked home we were both a bit worried about what we were signing up for.
I had asked two friends who make jam regularly for advice before buying the fruit. One recommended using pectin or gelatin, the other didn't. The non-pectin friend also suggested that the fruit reach a temperature of 246 degrees before removing it from the stove.
Armed with the advice of my friends, four pounds of apricots and lots of lovely canning jars, we embarked on our jam making. I am the proud owner of many Le Creuset pots and pans, so I chose to use the largest one I had on hand (last time I used a huge non-stick stockpot). Let me tell you, it cooked beautifully. All I can say, and remember, I'm a novice jammer, is use as heavy-bottomed a pot as you have.
Initially, we just cut the apricots in half, added the sugar, lemon juice and orange flower water and put it on the stove to boil. As soon as it started to thicken, Mr. CM noted that the fruit wasn't breaking down very quickly and proceeded to grab the kitchen shears and cut the cooking apricots into way smaller pieces.
It was at this point that I discovered the fresh vanilla bean in the cupboard. I love the musky flavor of vanilla and thought it would be a good counterpoint to the sugar and the tangy apricots. Turned out to be right on the money.
While the fruit boiled away, I put the huge stockpot on the other burner and filled it with water. Once it began to boil, I added all the jars, lids and rings and boiled all of it for five minutes. Last year, I had purchased some special tongs to remove the sterilized jars from the boiling water, which was very helpful this time out, too.
As soon as the jam reached the consistency I was looking for, we scooped it into the jars, added a small piece of vanilla bean to each jar, and sealed them most of the way closed. We didn't have quite enough jars (I only bought 8), so the remainder went into a bowl with an airtight lid, which Mr. CM took home to his little boys to enjoy.
I cant decide what flavor to make next, but I'm thinking something with rosemary added to it. I mean, if you're going to make your own jam, why not make it interesting?
Apricot Jam with Orange Flower Water and Vanilla Bean
special equipment: canning jars
- 4 pounds very ripe Apricots, pitted and chopped into eighths
- 3 cups of Sugar
- 1/4 cup Lemon Juice
- 4 tbsps Orange Flower Water
- 1 Vanilla bean split open (or 1 tsp Vanilla Extract)
- Place chopped apricots, sugar, lemon juice and orange flower water into a large, heavy-bottomed pan. I used a Le Creuset here, which yielded great results.
- Put pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to bubble and sugar crystals are pretty much disolved.
- Lower heat to a simmer, and continue to stir regularly for the next 40 minutes, or so.
- About ten minutes after lowering the flame, add the split vanilla bean to the pot.
- Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water, place all of the jars and lids into it and boil them for five minutes.
- Remove the jars from the water onto a clean surface.
- Once the jam has reached the consistency that you prefer, remove it from the heat and ladle into sterilized jars.
- Fill jars 3/4 of the way full, put the lids on, leaving a little give, to let the mixture cool. When it's cool, you can turn the lids to completely closed, to insure that the jam will keep well.
Note: I did not do another boiling water bath at the end. The jam will keep, unopened for three months without sealing the jars one last time in boiling water.