I'm not sure there's anything better than the way the ingredients in my Apricot~Vanilla Bean Jam come together. Maybe I'm partial because orange is my favorite color, but trust me on this one....if you combine fresh apricots and sugar, plus fresh lemon zest & juice and then, as the final touch add a vanilla bean, you'll have a bright sparkly mixture that smells even better than it looks.
And the taste? Well it might just be the best thing you ever put on sliced bread (or scones or yogurt or ice cream or oatmeal or....)
Try it...you'll see.
Makes ~6 half pints
- 3 pounds fresh apricots, pitted
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced (about 1 TBS zest and 1/3 cup juice)
- 3 cups white sugar
- 1 vanilla bean* (preferably Singing Dog brand)
Note: When choosing apricots, it is best to use a 2:1 ratio ripe fruit to slightly-unripe fruit. The unripe fruit has more natural pectin, which improves gelling. You should have approximately 4 cups ripe fruit and 2 cups unripe fruit.
1.) 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.)
2.) 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.
3.) Combine chopped apricots, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar in a large bowl, stir well to combine then add the vanilla bean. Stir just enough to cover the vanilla bean.
4.) Cover and let the mixture 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. If it's warm in your kitchen and you're going to let the mixture sit overnight, consider putting the bowl in the refrigerator so the macerated fruit doesn't begin to ferment.
5.) 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.
6.) Place apricot mixture in a heavy-bottomed non-reactive pan.
At this point you can decide whether or not to split the vanilla bean. If you want to split it, you will need a steady hand and a sharp knife. Remove the vanilla bean from the fruit/sugar mixture and give it a quick rinse. Hold the vanilla bean on a cutting board, and slowly slice it length-wise. Next, scrape the zillions of sticky brown seeds onto a piece of wax paper, then add them back into your jam. Of course you'll have little specks of seeds in your finished jam -- I love that! Throw the split vanilla bean back into the mixture too. Don't worry; if you don't split the vanilla bean, just toss it back into your mixture and continue onto the next step. Your Apricot~Vanilla Bean Jam will still taste fantastic, even without the seeds.
7.) 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.
8.) 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.
9.) 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.
10.) Remove vanilla bean* and set aside, then ladle jam into clean hot jars leaving 1/4" headspace.
11.) Wipe rims spotlessly clean with a damp paper towel and place a lid on top of jar. Next, screw a band onto the jar until it's "fingertip-tight".
12.) Place jars on rack in Boiling Water Bath Canner or large stockpot, and be sure jars are covered with at least 1" of boiling water. You might need to add more water, using a clean jar or water pitcher.
13.) Cover with a tight-fitting lid, and bring water to a boil.
14.) Process for 10 minutes in a Boiling Water Bath. Adjust times** for sea level - see chart below.
15.) Turn kettle off and let jars rest in kettle for 5 more minutes.
16.) 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.
17.) Let rest for 24 hours, then check jars for a proper seal before storing.
18.) 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.
Important: 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.
*When you are finished using the vanilla bean for the recipe (and you didn't split it to remove the tiny seeds already) you can use it again! Rinse it off, let it dry and put it in a big jar full of white sugar. The result? Within a few days you will have Vanilla Sugar, which is something you can buy already made, but why would you when it's so easy to make it yourself?
**0-1000 ft: process 10 minutes
1,001-6,000 ft: process 15 minutes
Above 6,000 ft: process 20 minutes