I have 2 small confessions for you. One, I had my first bite of an apricot a few days ago. Two, I didn’t like it. How did I get through my life without trying an apricot? Well, that would be an insanely long story that basically boils down to the fact that me and fruit have always had a tumultuous relationship. Sour fruits like Granny Smith apples, pineapples, blackberries and raspberries have always been perfect pals, but my relationship with other fruits haven’t been so tight. Some of it has to do with the fact that instead of paying me an allowance, my parents decided that it would be better if we sold the pears from our backyard tree door to door. I don’t think my brother and I ever sold a basket to anyone. Being a door-to-door pear salesman was humiliating and not something I’d recommend for other ten year olds. I could also tell you that one summer, my brother and I spent the first few weeks of our vacation picking strawberries for a couple of bucks. We made enough to buy a bag of chips at the farm store and that pretty much wiped out our strawberry picking income for the day. I only started coming around to strawberries 10 years ago and I still pretty much have a strong hatred for pears. But for most of my life, I never really crossed paths with apricots. When I asked my husband what they tasted like, he said “like a bad peach” which isn’t really a ringing apricot endorsement.
So in an effort to ditch all my childhood fruit hang-ups, I thought I’d give apricots a try. I picked up a batch of organic Skaha apricots from a farmer who drives into Vancouver on a regular basis. They looked beautiful – bright orange globes with a gentle blush of pink. I took my first bite and was sorely disappointed. They weren’t juicy or flavourful or interesting in any way. So I hopped onto Twitter to complain and almost everyone said cook the damn things and they’d be wonderful. Luisa, of The Wednesday Chef, even passed me the link to Olga’s blog which had a recipe for apricot jam. Olga uses a recipe from David Tanis’ wonderful book Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys. Lucky me, I had fallen in love with the very same book when I borrowed it from the library and purchased it soon after I returned it, so I felt it was totally fortuitous to try out the recipe myself.
I felt pretty confident making this despite the fact that as David Tanis writes it, it’s more of a story than a cut and dried recipe – but that’s part of the charm of his book. I have made a couple rounds of blackberry jam in my day and like David, I’m all for making small batch jams for breakfast rather than preserving the summer for posterity. I knew I could do this apricot jam thing and perhaps I might give apricots another chance. So I got to work and it was all pretty simple stuff: sugar, fruit and a bit of water. I decided to add a vanilla bean since I figured these babies needed all the help they could get. As the jam was simmering away, David notes that things will start to “smell really, really good and look even better”. Uh oh, I was worried because despite my Class A sniffer, I couldn’t smell a damn thing besides the sugar and the vanilla bean. It also just looked like apricots floating in a sugar syrup. Here is where Twitter again came to the rescue. I was told not to panic but to continue giving the jam a bit more heat. So I did, I let the thing simmer briskly for a while longer before turning it down to a low simmer. My jam panic was subsiding and I began to trust in my instincts.
Re-reading David’s “making a little jam” story he says that judging by eye is the key to making this jam and I have to agree. It’s not one of those things that require 20 minutes of heat and an 45 minutes of cool down. This isn’t a science experiment where exact measures and temperatures are required. Making this jam is more of a craft. But don’t worry about it being a complicated process – you’ll get the gist of it soon enough – just trust your gut. And leaning on Twitter also provides some welcoming reassurance.
And how were those boring bland apricots? Delicious! The jam turned out beautifully and the jammy taste is bright, sweet and almost floral. Apricot jam is a win! Seriously, how could you look at all that bright sunshine spread over toast and not be happy in the mornings. It’s completely impossible. Thanks apricots for showing me something new.
A few notes. According to David Tanis, do not be tempted to reduce the sugar as apricots are never sweet enough for jam. Also, this jam tastes best the week it is made, so make up a small batch and enjoy it every morning over toast until it’s gone and share it with friends. It will, however, last for about a month in the fridge.
simple vanilla bean apricot jam
(Adapted from Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys)
2 c organic sugar
2 c organic apricots (about 8 apricots)
1 vanilla bean
Cut apricots in half, removing pits, but leaving the skin on. Place in a large heavy pot and add in sugar. Lightly give the mixture a stir so that the apricots help to moisten the sugar. Place over low heat with a 1/2 cup of water. Scrape the seeds of 1 vanilla bean into the pot, stirring until combined. When the sugar melts, turn up the heat to medium and let it simmer rapidly, scraping off any foam that gathers on top, giving it a stir now and then.
Bring the heat down to low and let it simmer for about 30 – 45 minutes or until the apricots begin to soften and melt. Stir frequently which will help get those fruit a-melting. When the jam coats the back of a spoon and starts to look “right”, you’re there! Remove from heat and let the jam cool down to room temperature. Spoon into jars and refrigerate, or process if you plan on canning this batch.
Welcome to the world of delicious apricots! And yes I did say delicious because an apricot freshly picked, FULLY on the tree, and still warm from the sun is truly divine…. however it has a shelf life of say 30 seconds. Its warm, its subtle, a sweetness that melts in your mouth… nothing at all like the bland, mealy “things” sold as apricots…. That said adding heat, a bit of sugar, and like you did vanilla, you have something that is nectar!! And when served atop thickly sliced sourdough… umm I think I need to go find me some apricots… SOON!
(and thank you for the heads up on the book…. looks like a wonderful Christmas present!)
I have the red plaid tops, but I’ve never seen them in blue, nor with matching rings! Where did you get them?!
I love apricot jam, but I’m a preserver, I process them. 🙂
I LOVE apricots! I think I like them better than peaches. But I’ll have to try this when the apricots come into season.
I’ve never liked fresh apricots, probably the only stone fruit I really don’t like. I only really like them dried, though I never have tried apricot jam.
My favourite thing to do with them is make them into a kind of.. not really glaze, but kind of, and then eat it on top of ham or even better, a curry burger (just make burgers, or meatloaf if you’re into that, as normal, but add a tbsp or two of hot curry paste and some garam masala). This is the recipe I use for making the topping, which is nicer processed until smooth after its cooked for ham, but very nice chunky on a burger. Finely chop 8 dried apricots and 4 shallots. Cook in a hot pan until tender with 2 tbsp olive oil, 4 tbsp white wine, 1/4 tsp garam masala or curry powder, and 1/8 tsp cinnamon. Process or leave chunky. I know I got this recipe from a cookbook, but don’t know where (and I usually use less oil, almost half as much, because I’m always chintzy with the oil when I’m cooking). I haven’t been eating meat for a while, but just thinking about this makes me want to make burgers. Yum.
I’m pretty sure I could eat this every day for the rest of my life. Yum!
Ha, good to know, Peggy! As for the book, yes, it would make a great gift – especially to yourself 🙂
Lydia, I used to have some pink plaid ones – these were passed down to me, second hand! I love them though 🙂
Ursula, I do love peaches, but I love apricot jam. A lot!
Kristel, give the jam a try – it’s so different from the fruit from the market. Jamming really does wonders for apricots, cross my heart! Thanks for your recipe too! Yum.
Katie, be my guest! As long as I’ve got some good bread, I’ll be right beside you 🙂
I’ve always been sort of indifferent about apricots – they don’t drive me crazy excited like peaches and cherries. But after reading your jam tale, I could totally make this and love it. Sorry to hear your pear story. That must have sucked!
What I’ve learned about apricots is that they are super hit or miss. You might get ONE tasty one in a batch of 20. Sad, but true. I think you found the perfect solution though, which is just to just mix them with sugar and and turn them into something fabulous!
Apricot jam is my favourite jam, and I am not just saying that. And I agree that the ONLY ones to eat whole are ones off the tree whilst standing under the tree having a munch. But mostly I have to say Poor You having to sell fruit door to door.. and that picking strawberries season, You had a lot to get over!!! c
I’m glad you’ve made friends with the apricots! My mother used to make the best apricot jam with apricot brandy in it. Too bad I don’t have the recipe.
Apricots aren’t my favourite summer fruit but I do eat one occasionally and don’t mind it. There’s a huge difference between the apricots grown here in Toronto and those I’ve eaten in Greece. Of course I don’t need to tell you which are better tasting, more fragrant and sweeter 🙂 Your jam looks delicious. I think I’d eat it with spreadable chevre cheese. Yum! I would also like to check out that cookbook from the library and I hope I don’t have to wait 3 months for it.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had a fresh apricot, but I do love them dried. And I just had leftover apricot chicken curry for lunch which is one of my favorite ‘easy’ dinners.
I have apricot jam on my list of things to make…. And with vanilla?!?! Even better!! This is so pretty, too 🙂
Renee, yes, try apricot jam – it’s so delicious & perfect on morning toast 🙂
Good to know, Joanne! Yes, mixing them with sugar and adding heat is so true.
Cecilia, selling pears is not one of my finer childhood memories, but I’m glad I’m getting over my fruit hangups, one fruit at a time!
Loretta, with apricot brandy? Sounds delicious.
Good to know, Bijoux. Maybe a trip to Greece is in order! And yes to eating with cheese!!
Sara, I often add dried apricots into curry -it adds a nice sweetness, so I’m sure with chicken it would be delicious.
Thanks Sues, pretty and tasty – a great combo.
Does this recipe freeze well? Should I risk it? Will it affect the taste? (I am scared of real canning. The hot lid/sterilized jar/botulism risk business….)
Bettycola, I had to do a bit of google sleuthing, but yes, you can freeze jam! So go ahead and try it out. I’d be sure to put the jam in a few small jars, so that you have one small jar in the fridge and the rest in the freezer 🙂
Yay! I’m glad you’ve come around to the glory of apricots. I also like them better cooked than fresh. I bought my first batch of fresh Italian plums today, and I hope I’ll end up liking them. Or at least, I can simmer them with vanilla and make jam!
Kate, plums are a recent discovery of mine too. I’ve only eaten them out of hand but I’m sure they’d benefit from a little cooking and jamming too 🙂
Lol I love your husband’s description of an apricot. I don’t enjoy them either. You turned them into something that looks amazing though!
Ashley, I think the thing with apricots is to blast ’em with heat. Then, they become quite delicious and perfumey!