Remember my story about making apricot jam with my mom and grandma when I was a kid? Well guess what folks: it’s finally apricot season. Last weekend Kai and I made the trek out to Brentwood to pick some cherries (more on that later). While we were there, we decided to stop by Peter Wolfe Ranch, which was right down the road. We were delighted to discover that they had apricots. And not just any apricots: Royal Blenheims, the best of the best, the apricots of my childhood. Jane Wolfe, who was tending to the fruit stand, greeted us with a half an apricot apiece. It was delicious and perfect: sweet, tart, just the right amount of softness and no mealiness whatsoever. Kai and I, despite having just picked more cherries than we knew what to do with, knew we had to buy some apricots. After chatting with Jane for a while, we each walked away with a half a lug of apricots — about 12 pounds apiece. The real kicker was the price: only $1 a pound! Let’s hear it for buying local, in-season produce.
This is the recipe for apricot jam that my mom used when she used to make it. It involves boiling the jam with the apricot kernels. To get at the kernels, you have to break the pit open with a hammer. This was always my job as a child, much to my delight. (What child doesn’t enjoy smashing things with a hammer?) The kernels give the jam a slightly almond flavor, which I love. They also contain cyanide, so don’t eat too many of them. I recommend using whole kernels so you can easily fish them out before canning the jam. That said, I’ve been eating this jam my whole life and my mom eats the kernels raw and we’re both still alive and kicking. If you’re really concerned, just leave them out. It’ll still be good.
Mom’s Apricot Jam
Yield: 10 half-pint jars
12 cups (about 6 lbs) apricots, halved and each half quartered. IMPORTANT: Use Royal Blenheim apricots ONLY — they’re the best!
3 cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
6 apricot kernels (use only whole kernels; discard any crushed kernels)
- Start your water bath canner boiling and place 12 half-pint jars in it to be sterilized. (The extra two are in case you end up with more jam than expected.) See my canning tutorial for more information on water bath canning.
- Chop your fruit, reserving pits.
- Using a hammer, smash the pits to retrieve the kernels inside.
- Stir apricots, lemon juice, kernels, and sugar together in a large, heavy pot. The pot should be larger than the amount of fruit it can hold, otherwise it will boil over. The one I use is 8 quarts.
- Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring regularly and skimming foam, for about 30 minutes until “jammy”. The jam should bubble up and eventually subside. Be sure to stir often, and scrape the bottom of the pot to avoid burning.
- Fish out kernels and discard. Make sure to get all six.
- Ladle jam into hot, sterilized half-pint jars. Wipe rims clean with a damp cloth. Put on lids and rims. Boil in water bath canner for 15 minutes. Transfer jars to a wooden cutting board (do not place jars directly on a cold surface). Lids should “pop” to indicate a proper seal. If a jar doesn’t pop (i.e. if you can depress the lid and it pops back up), refrigerate it and eat it within a few weeks.
Can you say YUM?