Summer is just around the corner & is slowly creeping its way into the UK, any trip to the market will confirm a shift into the season as suddenly there is so much more colour & freshness on offer (a very happy sight).
One of the thing’s that signal the beginning of summer for me is Apricots. From late May to early September, these gorgeous, bright, little stoned fruits are a plentiful & an inexpensive treat throughout summertime. After what feels like a rather long Spring this year, the wild garlic has long wilted & the elderflower will soon have disappeared from its branches, along comes the apricot to welcome us into hopefully sunnier (us Brits can only hope), longer days.
Not only do apricots signal the beginning of summer for me but they also signal the beginning of the preserving calendar. This jam-addicted baker makes far too much chutneys & jams during the summertime (I suspect even more so this year with so much homegrown fruits & veggies growing in my garden right now!). I’ve always been a bit of a jam fiend (jam sandwiches were the ultimate childhood treat) & years ago when I began on my baking journey, following bread, I believe jam was the second thing I decided to turn my hand to (well I couldn’t have bread without jam now could I?).
I remember being absolutely amazed at just how easy the process was (not to mention cheaper than buying it ready made!), from that first batch of sweet, chunky strawberry jam, I was hooked! Now a serial preserver, I very rarely buy in any preserves now as I’ve always got a sufficient (read: far too much) supply precariously balanced throughout my tiny kitchen to see me through the winter months.
It all starts with a batch of apricot jam… sunshine in a jar! This is probably one of the easiest jams to make, having a medium amount of pectin in them (the naturally occurring substance found in fruits that acts as a thickening agent, helping jam to set), means it’ll be easier for your jam to reach the right consistency, it doesn’t tend to over or under-set.
The best apricot jam is one that isn’t too set (but more so than a compote) & not too sweet, retaining some of that wonderful tartness & pleasant fruity tang. It’s the perfect & most pleasant thing to wake up to in the morning, spread thickly on hot slices of toast, crusty bread or fresh croissants.
I feel as though apricot jam is a little underrated in this country (the French however love it), as folks tend to steer towards a sweeter, usually berry based variety for their toast, but homemade really does trump anything you can buy, it packs in so much more flavour.
I never find myself without a jar or two or apricot jam to hand in the kitchen as it’s got so many uses, not only on my breakfast, I love it swirled through a thick yogurt, it’s also amazing when paired with cheese (trust me on this) & it’s also what I always turn to to glaze my buns, sweet breads & pastries, I’d be lost without it. So for the next three months you’ll likely find me packing a little sunshine into several jars to hold onto summers finest long into the dark & cold of winter.
- 1kg fresh strawberries
- 1kg granulated sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 150ml water
- Small knob of butter
- Before beginning, place a small saucer into the freezer to chill (this will hep us to test the jam later)
- Roughly chop the apricots into chunks as big or as small as you like & discard the stones
- Place the chopped apricots, sugar, lemon juice & water into a maslin pan or large heavy bottomed saucepan & give everything a good stir
- Gently heat the mixture over a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved & no grains remain when you run a spoon along the bottom of the pan
- Add a sugar thermometer to the pan & bring the mixture to the boil
- Continue to boil the mixture, being sure to stir it frequently so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan
- Keep the mixture boiling away for around 15 minutes or until it reaches 102°C on the sugar thermometer (it may take a little bit longer, just keep testing every few minutes)
- Test to see if setting point has been reached by placing a small drop of the jam onto the chilled saucer
- Leave the drop of jam to cool for a minute & push your finger through the jam, if the surface wrinkles & you can leave a clear trail where your finger went through (the jam doesn’t flood back into the empty space), it’s done. If not continue cooking for a further a few minutes & test again
- Leave the jam to cool for 10 minutes
- Add the knob of butter to the jam & stir through to help clear any scum on the surface of the mixture or you can use a slotted spoon to remove any excess
- Pot up into clean, sterilised jars & label
Check out my 12 step jam making guide for a little help with all things jam!