I make a lot of different kinds of preserves, including some very unusual combinations. The one that wins me the most fans is really very basic, and probably the simplest one I make. Besides the endless requests I get for my Blue Ribbon Dill Pickles, the other thing I hear most often is from friends and family is: "You got any more of that apricot jam?"
I happen to prefer using a type of apricots called "Perfection" for this recipe, but there are many other types that work great, and maybe some that work even better. All I know is, when I use a mixture of ripe and slightly under-ripe Perfection Apricots (along with some sugar, fresh-squeezed lemon juice & lemon zest) I come up with a winning combination that some people say might just make me famous some day. So far I'm satisfied knowing I'm making quite a few people happy.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's amazing to me that with a bit of skill and plenty of heat, 3 common ingredients can be turned into something so lusciously delicious.
Makes ~4 half pints
- 2 pounds fresh apricots; a mixture of ripe & slightly under-ripe fruit works best.
- 1 fresh lemon, zested and juiced
- 4 cups white sugar
Note: Prepare canning jars and keep hot until ready to use; prepare lids according to the manufacturer's instructions. (If macerating the fruit & sugar mixture overnight, you will want to wait until the next day to prepare the jars.)
1.) Cut apricots in half. Remove the pit. Chop apricots into chunks. (Bigger if you like your jam chunky, smaller if you like it smoother.) You should have approximately 6 cups of fruit.
2.) Combine chopped apricots, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar in a large bowl, stir well to combine and cover. Let it sit on the counter at least one hour, but preferably 8 hours, or even overnight. The longer it sits, the more juices will be pulled from the fruit, forming a wonderful syrup in the bowl.
3.) After letting the apricot mixture sit the desired time, stir mixture together well, scraping any sugar that might have collected on the bottom of the bowl.
4.) Place apricot mixture in a heavy-bottomed non-reactive pan (don't use aluminum or cast iron). Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stir the fruit gently while cooking to reduce foaming.
5.) After about 10 minutes the fruit should be softening and you can periodically mash the chunks with a potato masher if you want smaller pieces.
6.) Boil for 5-15 more minutes, stirring, until the jam either thickens to your liking or until it reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.
7.) Ladle jam into clean hot jars to within 1/4" of the top, wipe rims spotlessly clean and place a lid on top of jar. Next, screw a band onto the jar until it's "finger-tight".
8.) Process for 10 minutes in a Boiling Water Bath.
9.) Turn kettle off and let jars rest in kettle for 5 more minutes.
10.) Remove jars from kettle using jar-lifter tongs, and gently set aside to cool on the counter, on a kitchen towel, in a draft-free place.
11.) Let rest for 24 hours, then check jars for a proper seal* before storing.
12.) If jars lid seals it will easily keep for one year in a cool, dark place. If jar doesn't seal, place it in your refrigerator and eat within 3 months, and within one month after opening.
*Check lids for a proper seal by pressing down on the middle of the lid with a finger or thumb. If the lid stays down, it is sealed and will easily keep for up to one year in a cool dark place. If the lid springs up when you release your finger, the lid is not properly sealed.