If there’s one thing I love more than stone fruit, it’s surplus stone fruit (which leads to making jam and preserves)!
Mostly because I still haven’t learnt self-control when it comes to gorging on plums, nectarines and apricots, but also because it means the potential for extended enjoyment of said fruits through the application of various preservation techniques.
Stop with the words, Alice! How do we do the things?
Well, firstly, you can make your own jam!
Jamming principals are fairly straightforward – though ratios/cooking times do seem to vary quite a bit, depending on who you ask.
Essentially, if you stick to a 1:1 ratio of sugar to fruit (say: 1kg of apricots to 1kg of caster sugar), you’ll be right – however, this does mean a very sweet jam, so do try the fruit first and up the acidity with lemon juice or citric acid.
You also need some form of pectin to help with setting – which is found naturally in high-pectin fruits like apples, pears and quinces, as well as apricot kernels and citrus rind. Citrus pectin can also be bought at Essential Ingredient.
Whatever stone fruit you choose, slice it into halves or quarters, then leave overnight covered with the sugar and any other flavouring you desire (like rosemary or vanilla) in order to help bring out the natural moisture; this will mean you don’t have to add extra water to the pot, which, as I learnt the hard way, will prevent the jam from setting.
The next day, bring the fruit to the boil on a medium heat and stir until all of the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon juice (about 2 lemons for every kg of fruit) your choice of pectin, and bring to the boil on high. Reduce the heat and simmer for another 15 minutes or so.
You can test if the jam will set by popping a saucer in the freezer and spooning out some of the jam to see if a skin forms. If it does, you’re good to go.
At this point, pour the mix into sterilised jars, seal and allow to cool.
These will keep in a cool, dry place for at least a year (if you can keep them for that long). Refrigerate after opening.
Apricot & Vanilla Jam
Apricot & Vanilla Jam
800g caster sugar
2 vanilla beans, split and deseeded (but pop the pods in too)
4 apricot kernels (which you can get out by cracking the shell like a nut)
Juice of 2 lemons
If making jam seems a little on the difficult side (trust me, the instructions are harder to read than they are to follow), maybe you might like drying your own!
All you need for making your own sun-dried apricots are a couple of really hot days in a row (ahem *tomorrow* ahem). Just halve the apricots, remove the pips and then lay them cheeks down on some foil barbecue trays.
The UV rays of the sun will act as an anti-bacterial and slowly draw out the moisture, bringing out eve more of the sweetness and intensity of flavour the longer you leave them to dry.
This is a great school holiday project and if you have a dehydrator, that can help accelerate the process.
The great thing about surplus stone fruit season is that you can find boxes of your faves for rock-bottom prices, particularly on a Sunday afternoon at many of the green grocers around the market, so it pays to shop around. Do taste the fruit where you can, and try and find as much depth of flavour as possible, because it will make a difference to your end result.
If this has piqued your interest in Granny Skills, pick up a copy of “Like Grandma Used to Make” from Essential Ingredient, along with plenty of other titles in their “pickling and preserves” section.
© 2017 Alice Zaslavsky