Apricot season is here! The season is short, but these beautiful and versatile stone fruits are at their peak right now. At Bi-Rite we’re lucky to have access to lots of different varieties, including Blenheim Apricots, which are one of the best for making jam. We’ve got Blenheims in the Markets right now, so it seems like a good time to share my recipe for Apricot Jam, along with our Cheese Buyer Anthea’s recommendation for some perfect cheeses to pair with it.
The beauty of jam is that the fruit doesn’t have to be perfect. Bruised, soft, unsightly or a day overripe–jam welcomes all fruits and makes them beautiful again. A mix of less-ripe and more-ripe fruits is good; less-ripe contains more natural pectin, and more-ripe contains more sugar, so the two balance each other out nicely. You can make a big batch of jam at the height of summer ripeness and put it away until the winter, then crack it open and take yourself right back to summertime. And jams are beautiful with lots of other foods, including yogurt, toast, pork, chicken, and cheese!
I asked our Cheese Buyer, Anthea, to try my Apricot Jam and recommend cheeses to go with it. She suggested fresh chèvre such as Andante’s, but also feels that any number of fresh, creamy cheeses would do well. She also recommends sweeter jams like this one with bleu cheeses (“Mold loves sugar,” she told me), such as Bay Bleu from Point Reyes. For a harder cheese pairing, try goat cheddar. Personally, I love sneaking a schmear of jam inside of a goat cheddar grilled cheese sandwich!
Simple Apricot Jam
This recipe is easy to scale up or down and adjust according to your tastes. This recipe uses the “noyau,” or almond-like inner kernel of the apricot, to flavor the jam. Amaretto and almond extracts are traditionally made using apricot kernels rather than actual almonds because the fragrance is much stronger. Other stone fruits share this quality, such as cherries and peaches, though apricots tend to be the most potent aroma. Just crack the pits open, and remove the little “almond.”
I recently made an apricot rose jam using this recipe, just added a few handfuls of organic rose petals at the beginning of the cooking process- they candy themselves and lend a gorgeous rosy color to the jam. Rosemary, saffron or lavender are also some of my favorite variations. You can adjust the sugar and lemon juice to make it either sweeter or brighter, depending on the sweetness of the apricots. You can process this in a traditional water bath to preserve it for the coming months, or it will keep for several weeks refrigerated.
- 1 lb apricots
- 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar, divided in half
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
Wash the apricots, and chop into roughly even pieces. Save the pits. Toss the chopped apricots in a bowl with half of the sugar. Set aside to macerate for at least 10 minutes, although up to 1 hour is ideal. This will start drawing out the juices and dissolving the sugar.
Place the pits in a clean kitchen towel, and fold it over. Use a hammer, mallet or other heavy object to crack the pits open. Remove the inner almond-like kernel and place one in each of your clean jars.
Place the apricots and their juices in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and add the rest of the sugar, salt and lemon juice. Using a wider pot will make the cooking process faster, since a wider surface area will allow for the fastest evaporation of excess liquid. Place a few saucers in the freezer- you will use these to test the viscosity as the jam cooks.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a hearty simmer (you want it going pretty strong, but not so much so it is splashing hot sugar/apricot juice). Stir occasionally using a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, scraping down the sides periodically. It should take about 15 minutes after it comes to a boil to reduce down enough. Once the foam subsides, stir the bottom more often and keep a close eye on it. Be careful, it will start spattering once it thickens up, just turn the heat down a touch. Then, start testing it. Dribble a little bit of jam onto the frozen saucer and wait for it to cool down (you can put it back in the freezer for a minute or two)- this will give you an idea of how thick it will be once cool. Once it has thickened to your liking, turn it off, and ladle into clean jars over the noyaux. Seal and process or let it cool down and then refrigerate. Enjoy!