Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Speedy Apricot Jam: Gluts and Glory

When it comes to summer fruit, I smile when I remember my great childhood friend Patricia. Trish’s dad was a fruit farmer: to a greedy 9-year old, possibly the most exciting kind of farmer there was. Throughout the summer and autumn, the fields and orchards around their house were filled with berries, soft stone fruit and apples of all varieties, testimony to endless hours of back-breaking work on his part and an absolute dream for us. The pick-your-own fruit farm he ran was heaven from June until September – the absolute best place to get lost on purpose. We ran amok between fruit cages, canes and straw-sprinkled rows in the afternoons after school, made camps in the apple crates and ate whenever we stopped, getting it all down our school summer uniforms as we crammed spares into the pockets. I can’t begin to imagine how much of the profits we chomped our way through (no doubt we ruined many suppers too), but picking fruit has given me a frisson of childish excitement ever since.

We are staying with the BSG’s mum at the moment, whilst someone who knows what they’re doing makes a large hole in our house - and most importantly, in our kitchen. Ma BSG’s garden is a veritable cornucopia of edible wonders. I decided to relieve the groaning apricot tree of its heavy burden this week and managed not to eat everything I picked. There must be at least 3 kilos of fruit still to ripen on there. I had chanced upon a very good recipe recently from a friend and thought I’d test it out with my ‘glut’ (well, not really my ‘glut’ but I have been trying to grow something successfully at home for years so I could use that word on here – and now its been interred under a pile of builder’s rubble so I don’t know when I’ll have a genuine ‘glut’ moment).

This jam is a speedy one (rather than the apricots being Bolt-paced gold medallers as the title might infer) and due to its only boiling for 5-7 minutes, it has to be kept in the fridge once opened and consumed within a fortnight. There is no need for saucers in the freezer or jam thermometers and you get the very best of the fresh fruit taste.Try it with yogurt and oat bran for brekker, as a glaze on fairy cakes, with ice cream…or straight off the spoon. I promise you it won’t last a fortnight…

I used:
950g apricots, washed, stoned and roughly chopped
425g jam sugar
a squeeze of lemon juice

Put the fruit and sugar into a large heavy-bottomed preserving pan and roughly mash with a fork or potato masher. Stir it over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then turn it up and boil for 5 minutes (7 if you’d like a firmer set), stirring regularly with a wooden spoon to prevent catching.

Take the pan off the heat, squeeze over some lemon juice and stir again. Let it cool slightly and pour the jam through a funnel into sterilised jars. Leave to cool and then seal.

This filled about 4 medium-sized jars.

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