Friday, 23 July 2010

Apricot or Peach Jam, with Vanilla If You Like

I found some vanilla beans in the cupboard recently. No idea how long they've been around. Let's just say we didn't buy them while living in this house. I decided to throw a couple into one of my two batches of peach jam, and I'm really glad I did. They added a whole new dimension to the peach flavour. I haven't tried the vanilla with the apricots and probably won't, although I don't think it would be bad. I just don't think it would be as good as with the peaches. The apricots are a little too sharp and bold to interact as nicely with the vanilla. I could eat raw fresh peaches all day and all night when they are in season, but apricots have an assertive flavour that just seems to stand up to the cooking process better.

When I know I am going to make jam, I start collecting lemon seeds a few days to a week in advance. Every time I use a lemon, I put the seeds in a little jar with just enough water to cover them. Once I've accumulated a tablespoon or so, I'm ready to make the jam. Lemon seeds are great for providing pectin, and they work even when you are making a low-sugar jam. Of course, when you want seedless lemons you get scads of seeds, and when you actually want the seeds it seems like the growers have finally cracked the secret of growing seedless lemons. However, even a teaspoonful of seeds will help. Add the water they were kept in: it will be so full of pectin it will probably have gelled already.

5 to 6 250ml jars
2 1/2 hours of which 1 hour at least is waiting around

3 quarts apricots or peaches
3 1/2 cups sugar
the juice of 1 large lemon
as many lemon seeds as possible
2 or 3 vanilla beans, OPTIONAL

I blanch and peel the peaches. (Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop in peaches for one minute. Fish out and place in cold water. Peel.) I don't bother with the apricots; their skins are more delicate and dissolve away in the jam. Just wash them.

Chop the peaches or apricots, discarding the pits. Put them in a large bowl with the sugar and lemon juice, stir well, and cover them. Place them in a warm spot for about an hour. About 15 minutes before you are ready to start the jam, place your jars in your canner and bring them to a boil.

Strain the juices from the fruit into a canning kettle. Put the lemon seeds into a tea-ball or tie them up in a piece of muslin, and add them too. Bring to a boil and boil for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the juice darkens and thickens a little.

Add the fruit to the pot and continue to boil, stirring frequently, for another 15 to 25 minutes, until most of the juice had been absorbed into the mass, and it passes a gel test - either pours from a spoon in a sheet, or forms a skin when placed on an ice-cold saucer. You will particularly need to watch it towards the end of the cooking, to be sure it doesn't scorch.

Put the jam into the sterilized jars, and seal with prepared lids and rims. Pop the finished jams back into the canner for 5 minutes, then let cool. Test for seals and label.

Last year at this time I wrote about what to do with failed jam... oops. No failed jam this year (*knock wood*) so far, although my apricot jam is a tad soft.


Kevin Kossowan said...

Really?? Lemon seeds??? I have to try it!

Ferdzy said...

Would I kid you Kevin? Yes, they work!

Joanne said...

Thanks for the lemon tip! And for the vanilla bean suggestion...everything tastes better with vanilla in my opinion!