One of the things I have been working on this summer is learning how to can and preserve produce. It’s part of the plan Big Man and I have to become more self-sufficient and move toward an “old-fashioned” lifestyle. We’re honing our homesteading skills as much as we can now so we’re prepared when we move to our new house and have the space to keep a large garden and small barnyard animals. (Yay!)
If Big Man’s green thumb can offset my enormous ability to kill any and every type of plant, we should end up with a garden that produces enough for eating during the summer and saving for the winter. So learning how to preserve various produce is important for us. I was pretty nervous the first time I used my water bath canner, but it turned out to be less intimidating than I feared, and I’ve found canning to be a really fun process. Plus, it is extremely satisfying to see my pantry fill up with homemade goodies.
A few weeks ago my mom and I bought a 25 lb. case of apricots to share. I used some to make a cobbler for Big Man’s birthday and we ate quite a few apricots, but the rest went into a couple batches of jam. This was my first experience with “real” jam making (though I did some freezer jam last year) and it was very successful! For my first batch of jam, I followed the recipe exactly and ended up with a great sweet/tart jam, spreadable but not runny, and with a true apricot flavor. A few days later when I made the second batch, I added some vanilla and cardamom to give it a spiced, autumnal flavor. I think Big Man likes the spiced version the best, but I can’t decide which is my favorite and the Little Ones love both kinds as well.
If you’ve ever thought of making jam or learning to can, I’d encourage you to do so! It seems intimidating at first but it’s not really that difficult and the resulting yumminess is totally worth the time and effort. I’m so excited for the next couple months as more fruit will be available at the farmer’s market and I can make more jam, and preserves, and pie filling, and fruit butters, and …
Homemade Apricot Jam, Two Ways (Adapted from Williams-Sonoma)
Yield: about 5 half-pint jars3 lb. apricots 2 cups sugar 1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice (I used bottled) Optional for “spiced” version: one whole vanilla bean, 1 or 2 whole cardamom pods
1.) Cut the apricots in half, remove the pits, and slice the apricots (you don’t need to peel them). In a large bowl, gently toss the apricot slices with the sugar. For spiced jam, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and add it to the apricot/sugar mixture. Cover loosely, and let stand at room temperature at least 4 hours, or refrigerate overnight.
2.) Have ready your water bath canner and hot sterilized jars, lids, and rings. Place 3 or 4 small plates in the freezer to prepare for jell-point testing.
3.) Add the apricot mixture to a large saucepan or stockpot and stir in the lemon juice. For spiced version, add the whole cardamom pods as well. Slowly bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the jam has thickened. It took mine over 30 minutes to reduce enough, but at a lower altitude it may take less time.
4.) Once the jam seems to have thickened and the apricots have broken down, perform a jell-point test. This is just to make sure than the jam will set properly when cooled and not be too runny. To test, place 1 tsp. of jam on a chilled plate. Return the plate to the freezer for 2 minutes. Then, test the jam sample by pushing on the edge lightly with your finger. If the jam wrinkles, then it’s done. If it’s still liquid/runny, cook for a few more minutes and test again on another plate.
5.) Once the jam has passed the jell-point test, remove the vanilla bean and cardamom pods (if using), and ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims and add the lids and rings. Process the jars for 10 minutes* in boiling water. Sealed jars will keep up to a year when stored in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate any jars that don’t seal; they’ll keep for up to a month.
6.) Enjoy your creation on a PB&J or straight from the spoon. It’s also pretty awesome spread on homemade biscuits!
*If you are at an altitude higher than sea level (like I am), add 1 extra minute of processing time for each 1000 ft. above sea level. I live at about 5000 ft. so I processed for 15 minutes.
Have you ever made jam before? I’d love to hear you experiences!