Thursday, May 07, 2015

Apricot Olympiad 2015

Day one-the jams.

Fresh off his 1st-4th place sweep of the ribbons for canning at the Nebraska State Fair, Danny is set to defend his title in Grand Island this September with a selection of preserved apricot delights. Today, he made two excellent apricot jams.
I supervised, but can't take credit for much else. One recipe is made the old fashioned way with only apricots, sugar and lemon juice. It takes about an hour, and there's much fiddling about with cold saucers and spoons to test for the gelling point. Because it cooks longer, the jam develops a deep, rich orange colour. The flavour is sweet, and rich with just enough zing from the lemon juice. Perfection for sure, but oh so much standing and stirring.
The white film on the jars is from hard water in the canner. This is easily wiped away with a towel and some white vinegar.
This brighter looking batch is made with powdered pectin (derived from apples) which permits the jam to cook much faster. With pectin, you only bring it to a boil, add sugar, and return it to a boil for a minute before bottling it. The fruit must be ripe (or it will float to the top)and as finely chopped as possible. Danny did half of the apricots mashed and the rest finely chopped as jam ought to have some pieces of fruit. Because it cooks for such a short time, you can't count on the apricots breaking down as they cook-so if you use pectin, be certain you like the texture when you begin as it won't change much in cooking. That said, the result is a much brighter tasting jam-more of a soft fruit spread really. It won't have the depth of flavour you get with a traditionally cooked jam, but it will taste like a fresh apricot. Both styles of jam have their place, and I was pleased Danny decided to treat us to a batch of each.
There's still about half of the apricots left. Tomorrow Danny is making apricot butter, and a nectar. We had quite a few peels left from the first recipe which requires peeling, so I pureed them, and plan to make ice cream tomorrow. In previous years I would make fruit leather, or fruit pate candies, but this year I'm feeling lazy. Good thing I have the kid to do all the work.

I make use of the pressure canner as a water-bath because I have it, but you really don't need special equipment to preserve. The most important thing is having a rack inside a pot, and a lid to cover it. If you can get 2 inches of water over the tops of the jars when submerged, then you're fine to use the pot. A jar-lifter is helpful, but kitchen tongs will work too.

Hopefully there will be a few apricots left for a pie.

I have many apricot recipes in the archives, but my favourite recipe for jam is the simplest:

2 quarts apricots, pitted and mashed- about 1 quart of which should be peeled (you need some peel for colour)
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 cups granulated sugar

Combine apricots and lemon juice in a large pot. Stir in the sugar and bring to a boil slowly over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once boiling, cook rapidly until it gels (do whatever test you prefer-sauce, spoon, thermometer). Pour hot jam into hot, sterilised jars and leave 1/4 inch head space. With a rubber spatula (or chopstick) remove air bubbles. Wipe rim with a damp cloth, adjust lids and bands and process 10 minutes (half pints) 15 minutes (pints) in a water-bath canner. Add 1 minute per thousand feet above sea level. Remove lid from canner, turn off heat, and let jars rest inside for 5 minutes as a cool-down. Remove carefully to a protected surface (I use several tea towels) and let cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours. Makes about 8 half pints.


Sue said...

Good luck Danny, but I am sure you will take out the prizes. Oh and well done Goody for only supervising, that is by far the hardest job!!

Curtise said...

Danny, jam-making champion of the world! It looks delicious, hope he wins all the ribbons again this year. xxx

Curtise said...

Danny, jam-making champion of the world! It looks delicious, hope he wins all the ribbons again this year. xxx

Beth Waltz said...

Delighted to see that a youngster is learning the mysteries of bottling fruit! As we left my mother's funeral, my brother turned to his two daughters in the back seat and noted: "Ladies, I fear we have just buried the last woman in this family who will make pies from cherries she picked and canned herself." Then eyeing me, he remarked: "We won't even talk about lard piecrusts..."

Good for Danny! And a rose for you, Goody, on Mother's Day -- this is one good kid you're raising.

Goody said...

He's always been a bit obsessive about apricots. Any other fruit he can take or leave, but apricots be they dried, tinned, or so under ripe you could break a tooth biting into them-he'll devour them. He has made other jams, but I believe it was love of apricots that is driving his ambitions. Thanks for the good luck vibes!

Thanks, Curtise. He appreciates the encouragement.

@Beth Waltz
I hear you!
I was never encouraged to learn canning or baking-heck, I could barely cook when I got married. I'm sure everyone thought they were doing me a favour giving me time to spend on my studies rather than cooking and cleaning-but I paid for it later on. Hopefully I can spare Danny some of that.

Mim said...

Those look delicious, especially the first sort. I hope Danny continues to conquer the jam world.

Goody said...


I hope so as well...or I'm going to hear plenty of moaning about it!