From the freshest of apricots comes plenty, and from plenty comes waste unless you belong to those who preserve rather than allow largesse to become compost. The modern world prefers shopping to thinking. The fruits of summer are eaten and not given another thought. The canniness − frugality? need? − of past generations is no longer part of our thinking.
A pantry is now that place where we find jars of out-of-date peanut butter or scoured Vegemite rather than a beautifully organised home of preserves—jams, chutneys, sauces, or fruits. Making jam from dried apricots in summer may seem something of a fail, with apricots in full season, but the difference in flavour and texture makes this an easy alternative. Making jam from fresh apricots and making the comparison also sits well with the Anne Willan model: learn the basics, and exploit the opportunity.
I made my first jars of fresh apricot jam in my restaurant days, when staff were numerous and time was not an option. We used the great Gaston Lenotre’s recipe from Lenotre’s Ice Creams and Candies, (published by Barron’s in 1979), which had the apricots macerating for more than a day. The resulting apricot syrup was cooked to 118C, then the apricots were simmered in the syrup. The recipe said nine minutes of simmering to get the syrup to the required consistency, but we made a batch 20 times the recipe and it took hours and hours of stirring and stirring to get it just right. The resultant jam was still good years later, when we sold the restaurant, and
a jar was discovered in the back of the storeroom.
This recipe, with just a little water instead of the larger amount required to rejuvenate dried fruit, works just as well with fruit taken straight from the branch. My preference, fresh or dried, is always to make small batches of jam (and there is really no alternative with the Thermomix’s limited capacity) and to do it regularly; small and often also means you never get tired of “not another jar of [fill this space]”!
NOTE: If you think the Thermomix is an indulgence when making jam, I draw your attention to a shop in Quebec called La Conserverie du Quartier that produces all its jams via multiple Thermomixes cooking simultaneously—something I discovered via that passionate evangelist for the Thermomix, Helene Meurer of superkitchenmachine.com.
1. Prepare the jars and lids to ensure they are scrupulously clean: put them through the dishwasher or hand wash and heat in a 100C oven. (The hot jam will be poured into hot jars to eliminate any chance of the glass cracking.)
2. Soak the apricots and apple chunks in the water and lemon juice, with the lemon zest, until softened, at least 3 hours. Check that the apricots have softened.
3. Place in the Thermomix bowl, add the sugar and stir gently to allow the sugar to dissolve. Cook 40 minutes/Reverse/speed soft/100 degrees, MC off, and TM basket on (to reduce splatter).
4. At the end of the first cooking, taste the mix (don’t burn your tongue). The apricots will have softened to a puree. Add MC, and whizz 9 seconds/speed 10.
5. Continue cooking for 20 minutes/Reverse/speed soft/
6. Spoon a little of the jam onto a plate, and place in the fridge for a few minutes until cold. The jam should be firm, but not stiff. If you feel you have overcooked the jam, you can add a little more water, cook for another 5 minutes/Reverse/speed soft/80 degrees, then, with MC on, whizz 9 seconds/speed 10.
7. Using a funnel, pour the jam into the hot sterilised jars, using the spatula to get every last ounce from the bowl. Tighten lids immediately, and turn upside down to cool.
Adapted from French Regional Cooking, by Anne Willan (Hutchinson, 1981