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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Apricot Jam - Preserve Summer into Autumn

Summer has gone, though we hardly had the real Summer this year. It was the wettest Summer we had in years.

I love to preserve fruits that are in season into jams. Not only buying things in season are more sensible and economical, I can prolong the fruits of each season into the next. I can linger on Summer in Autumn.

Coming from an Asian background, Thailand where foods are abundant and cheap. We don’t make things ourselves when it is so cheap to buy and eat out. So, the idea of making jam was foreign to me. I suppose it is the same with anything else, when you don’t know how to make it, you seem to be excited to learn that it is actually can be done.. at home!

I remembered the first time I had great homemade jam (or B&B-made, shall I say). We went away to Healsville and stayed at Mt Rael Resort and had fabulous homemade raspberry jam for breakfast. It was sort of moment that changed my attitude, no supermarket jam will be good enough anymore. However, the good artisan jam can be quite expensive (which I don’t really understand why good food are usually not reasonably priced? Why we need pay a big premium for better than average food?), and a lot of the time, those jam are not that great either!

That got me started making my own jam.  I wanted to relive that great jam moment. I wanted to find the tastiest jam. And I think I did, the homemade jam tastes fabulous. It tastes real fruit with real flavour, not just a jar of sugary jel. 

The other good thing of making your own jam is that you can control the amount of sugar, the texture, and the flavour. I never use pectin in my jam. Sure, the jam won’t solidly set, but it will be set enough and I like my jam to be easily spreadable. Moreover, fruits, lemon and sugar have their own natural setting agent, why use other substances when it is not necessary. I usually reduced the amounth of sugar by 40% of general recipe (1 part fruit:0.60 part sugar).

Apricot jam is one of my favourite. Personally, I think tart fruits made good jam. Good jam needs a balance of flavour, something to cut through the sweetness. Tartness of acidic fruits or bitterness of citrus zest work well as a result. I have tried making many jams, tangelo, nectarine, strawberry, apricot, raspberry and fig. My top three picks are raspberry, apricot and tangelo.

Apricot jam is also perfect to use as glaze for pastries and bread. It gives more flavour to the bread or buns. I made the Hot Cross Bun using apricot glaze and they were delish.

Apricot Jam recipe
Make about 4 medium-sized jars (300 ml)

1 kg fresh apricot, stoned, cut in quarters (reserved 4-5 stones)
4-5 apricot stones (seeds)
600 g sugar
Juice of one lemon

Place apricot and sugar in a large heavy-based pot. Cover the pot and leave at room temperature for few hours. Alternatively, you can leave this overnight in the fridge.

The fruits and sugar will interact and release the juice. This will help shortening the cooking time.

Using hammers breaking apricot seeds to get the apricot kernels (the kernels resemble almond kernel). Chop the apricot kernels finely and set aside. The seeds will help with the jam-setting.

Mix lemon juice and chopped apricot kernels in the apricot-sugar mixture. Bring the mixture to the boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil for further 20 – 30 minutes until the jam is set. Stir the mixture occasionally to prevent it sticks.

Note: One way to test if the jam is set: Chill a saucer in a freezer, place a teaspoon of jam onto a cold saucer. Run the finger through the jam, the line where you run the finger through should stay separated if the jam is set.

Pour warm jam into warm sterilised jars and seal. Unopened jars of jam can be kept in the dark cupboard for up to three months. I usually keep mine in the fridge and they stay good for at least 6 months.

To sterilise jars: Wash jars and lids in a warm soapy water. Soak them in a pot filled with boiling hot water. Drain the jars and lid and dry them in a low heat oven (below 50C) until the jars and lids are thoroughly dry.

Perfect on toat, perfect for home!

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