I caught the canning bug a few years ago and have completely fallen in love with homemade jam. Sure, artisanal options abound these days, but they are quite pricey for such small jars. Its so worth making your own, if for no other reason than to have complete control over fruit, flavor, and sugar content (I am a big fan of low-sugar jams). Your kids will appreciate how especially delicious their peanut butter sandwiches will taste, and that morning toast ritual will be worth lingering over for a few extra minutes. Canning also gives you another great reason to go to the farmers’ market and get to know your local producers. Quality fruit is always more affordable in bulk, so buy a flat or two, save some for the fruit bowl and can the rest.
Stash those jam jars in the cupboard and you’ll have the pleasure of tasting a bit of summer in the dead of winter. Use jam in obvious ways but also explore. Who knew jam and blue cheese worked so well together? Of course, these also make great (holiday) gifts.
- With canning, even in small batches, I find it much easier to use weight instead of volume measures.
- Start the night before. Macerate the fruit with the sugar and lemon juice. This leads to a shorter cooking time the next day and an overall fresher flavor for the jam since maceration is the first “cooking” step.
- Find the freshest apricots you can. This is a great time to hit up the farmers’ market for a flat of fruit. Ideally, there would be a mix of ripe and slightly under-ripe fruit (the latter adds pectin and texture to the final product). Seconds are a good choice as long as they are not overripe.
- Hand wash or dish wash 1/2 pint jars (I prefer the wide mouth for easier storage). Line them up on a baking sheet.
- Place lids into a small pot, cover with water and simmer to soften the rubber seals while you cook the jam
- Put a small plate in the freezer a few hours before cooking jam. You will use this to test if the jam is done (it is done when a dollop on the cold plate doesn’t run).
- While fruit cooks, preheat your oven to 225°; place jars into the warm oven for about 20 minutes to heat and sterilize them. With hot jars and hot jam, the jam will seal properly without the need for a hot water bath. You will greatly appreciate this!
- Fill hot jam into hot jars using a canning funnel which makes for clean rims. Wipe rims with a clean, wet cloth if needed. Leave a 1/4 inch of headspace and seal with clean lids (remove from the water bath one at a time) and bands.
- Let the filled jars rest until the seal is secure – up to 24 hours. Listen to the popping as they seal. These should last for a year in your cupboard. Those that don’t seal can be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks.
- Organic apricots (Blenheim is my favorite variety if you have a choice)
- Organic evaporated cane juice/sugar
- Oranges, to zest
Keeping in mind that you will use a 1 lb. sugar : 4 lb. apricots : 2 tbsp. lemon juice ratio, wash and dry the fruit. Remove and discard the pits, then chop the fruit into small pieces. Measure the cut-up fruit as this will be the basis for your recipe. Then place in a large non-reactive bowl (or directly into the cooking pot to cut down on washable). Toss in the sugar, lemon juice and orange zest (to taste). Stir well, cover and let this sit in a cool, dry place for 6-8 hours or up to 2 days. (I usually set it up to sit overnight and cook the jam in the morning).
When you are ready to cook, mash the fruit/sugar mixture by hand, transfer to a pot if needed, and cook the mixture on high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for 20-30 minutes. This will depend on weather/the amount of pectin in the fruit/size of fruit/etc.
Fill clean, hot jars and allow them to rest until they cool and seal.
4 pounds of apricots yields 4-5 1/2 pint jars.