Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Apricot Jam and Canning 101

Fruit season is upon us! If you are lucky enough to be blessed by easy access to fruit trees or berry bushes, get out there and start picking! After you've had your fill of eating fresh fruit, channel your inner pioneer woman and make some jam!

Jam or preserves is the easiest of the preserved fruits, at least in my book. It usually does not require dealing with packaged pectin and involves very few ingredients. The basic premise is heating fruit to bring out its natural juices, adding sugar (to aid in the natural jelling process) and cooking until jelling will occur. If canning using a hot water bath canning method makes you nervous, you can skip that part and simply store your preserves in the back of your refrigerator. But honestly, canning is less scary than you think. The key is sterilizing your jars before filling them; if you have a dishwasher, one wash cycle is all you need. Check out this site for more information.

Canning does require some extra equipment, including specific tongs for lifting jars in and out of the hot water bath as well as a metal funnel for filling the jars, and the pot with the canning rack. If you decide to make these investments, your best bet for finding them is your local Ace Hardware store - much more economical than high end cooking stores.

While it seems a bit extravagant to buy new equipment for such a short time of year, trust me when I tell you that once you get the canning bug, you'll be hooked! Since becoming a canning fanatic years ago, I use my canning funnel every day and store all my foods - dry goods, leftovers, prepared lunches - in canning jars large and small. It's a great way to eliminate plastic from your life and know exactly what's in your pantry!

Apricot Jam (adapted from David Lebovitz)
(Makes 7 half pints)

3.5 lbs fresh apricots, (about 12 cups when pitted)
3 cups cane sugar
1/3 cup water
1 lemon, juiced

Cut or pull apart apricots and discard pits. Place apricots in large and deep dutch oven along with water and sugar. Heat over medium high heat, stirring fruit and mashing it with your wooden spoon, for about 20 minutes until fruit begins to turn into liquid and starts bubbling and foaming. Continue boiling and skim foam for at least 15 minutes until mixture begins to take on a jell-like appearance. Test for doneness by placing a ceramic plate in the freezer for at least 15 minutes and then drop some of mixture on the plate and place in freezer. After 4-5 minutes check plate and if jam can be nudged and is not runny, jam is ready. If not, keep cooking and retry in 10 minutes. When jam is ready, stir in lemon juice and fill sterilized jam jars, place lids and bands on without screwing on bands super tightly (you'll tighten them after the hot water bath processing). Place in boiling water bath, making sure water is at least 2 inches above jar tops, and process for 10 minutes.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Bouillabaisse with Roasted Yellow Squash and Chick Peas at Post Punk Kitchen
Chicken with Caramelized Cauliflower and Green Olive Pesto at Stacey Snacks
Spinach Artichoke and Cream Cheese Casserole at Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

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