Last week, I became the richest woman in the world.
Rich in apricots.
This fruit holds so many sweet memories for me that I am instantly transported to my childhood the moment I breathe in their sweet aroma.
Fresh, fragrant and, above all, free fruit is one of the greatest riches in the world, and I hit the mother-load last week when my friend informed me of her neighbor’s laden apricot tree.
30 pounds of apricots later, I was ready to get cracking on some jam!
As I sorted and sliced the fruit, the fragrance brought back a flood of memories from my childhood of when Momma used to make jar upon jar of apricot-pineapple jam.
It would all start one early-summer morning when Momma would wake us up to go pick apricots at our friend, Nora’s, house. Nora was almost 90 years old and more than happy that someone with more energy could put the fruit to use. We would pick and pick until there was nothing left and then cram our car with what seemed like a hundred grocery sacks fruit. On the drive home, we would eat about ten apricots. When we got home we would eat ten more. And that is all I am gonna say about that.
Once all of the bags of fruit were in the kitchen, Momma would start to make jam. Our kitchen would get all steamy and the smell of sweet, warm fruit would fill our house. My favorite part of jam day, however, was when Momma would let us sample the peach-colored foam she skimmed off the surface of the jam.
Ahh! Homemade jam is the smell and taste of summer. As I have gotten older, I’ve come to realize that summer feels empty without some sort of jam-making. Canning takes time and effort, but the process is just as delicious as the finished product.
Here’s to summer’s bounty!
Low Sugar Apricot Jam
The first step to great jam is great fruit. Apricots are my favorite fruit, but I rarely eat them because they only taste good when hand-picked. Those waxy golf balls in the grocery stores should NOT be considered apricots let alone fruit. I would much rather hold out for the real deal!
It is also important to use fruit that is at its peak ripeness. Jam is not a good way to put bruised or green fruit to use.
A good rule of thumb: If the fruit is perfect to eat right now, then it is ready to use in your jam.
Thoroughly rinse the fruit and then pit and chop.
Now it’s time to set up your M.O.!
1. The Pot
I do not own canning equipment, but I DO have a couple of large stockpots and a strong pair of tongs. Either way, fill a tall pot with water and set it over high heat. You want the water simmering hot and waiting for you when it is time to set the jars inside it!
2. The Jars
Assuming that your jars are squeaky clean, set them in a sink of hot, hot water or put them in the dishwasher on a rinse cycle. The jars need to be hot so that they are sterile and so that they do not crack when you fill them with hot jam or set them in a boiling pot of water.
3. The Lids
It is equally important to have clean, hot lids. I like to place them in a pan of simmering water. This helps soften the seal which in turn produces a tighter seal once you place it on the jar.
4. The Pectin
There are many types and brands of pectin and they all have their own SPECIFIC instructions. I discovered Ball low-sugar/no-sugar pectin last year and I am so glad I did. It produces equally delicious jams and jellies at a fraction of the sugar! The container did not have a recipe for apricot jam, but it did have one for peach. Since both are stone fruits, I went ahead and used the peach recipe and it turned out fabulous.
5. The Other Ingredients
I like to have everything measured out in separate bowls before I actually start cooking the jam. Otherwise, I get flustered and make a mistake. And unfortunately, THERE CANNOT BE ANY MISTAKES IN JAM! Everything must be accurate or your jam won’t set.
Now that you have all this in place, let’s make some jam!
Combine fruit, lemon juice and water or unsweetened fruit juice in a large stock pot. Toss in a 1/2 teaspoon of butter. This really helps prevent the jam from foaming so much.
Stir in the pectin gradually.
Bring this mixture to a full boil, stirring frequently.
A good rule of thumb: A full boil is one that you cannot stir down. It continues to boil strong even while you stir it.
Once the fruit/pectin mixture comes to a full boil, stir in the sugar.
Bring mixture back to a full boil, stirring often.
Once it comes to full boil, set a timer for one minute. Do not try to guess if one minute has passed. Remember: accuracy is key!
Boil mixture one full minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
Remove from heat.
Carefully ladle into hot jars and fill within 1/4 inch of the top. Thoroughly wipe along the top of the rim. Otherwise, excess bits of jam will weaken the seal of the lid.
If you are left with a small amount of jam that does not fill a jar, pour it in a container and allow to cool before refrigerating. This extra bit of jam is just as good as the stuff in the jars but will not keep as long. It will stay fresh for 3-4 weeks in the fridge.
DO NOT PROCESS HALF-FULL JARS!
Carefully place jars in hot, simmering water. The water should completely cover the jars by a couple of inches. Bring water to a boil.
Once the water comes to a boil, set the timer for 10 minutes, cover the pot and allow jam to process.
Meanwhile, take a deep breath in and enjoy the fact that your kitchen smells like one big apricot!
After ten minutes, carefully remove the jars and allow to cool completely. Jam takes about 2 weeks to fully set. Jam will remain fresh for up to a year in a cool, dark place.
Enjoy on anything and everything!
Ball Recipe for Low-Sugar Apricot Jam
This recipe makes 2 8 oz jars. I multiplied the recipe to accommodate 10 8 oz jars. Do not multiply beyond ten jars or jam will not set as well.
*1 1/3 cup pitted and chopped apricots
*1/3 cup water
*3 tsp lemon juice
*1/ tsp butter
*1 1/2 TBSP Ball brand low-sugar/no-sugar pectin
*up to 1/2 cups sugar
In a large stock pot, combine fruit, juices and butter. Gradually add pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar and stir well. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring frequently. Boil for one full minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Ladle into jars and process as above.