Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Apricot Vanilla Bean Jam

 Years ago, when I was working the night shift, I had a box of stone fruit ripening in the kitchen. I arrived home in the morning to discover that the fruit was perfectly, softly ripe, and needed to get in the jar right away. I was tired, but it was early morning, the house was quiet, and sun streamed into the kitchen that summer day. I canned those peaches while my roommates slept. I loved the rhythm, the method, holding and slicing those fruits while the juices dripped and the kitchen filled with the fragrance of summer. That must be when I started to really love canning.

Peaches are wonderful, but apricots are my favorite stone fruit for the jar. I thought the ship had sailed on apricots this season. But I was wrong: I was at the Berkeley Bowl when I saw these lovely blushing beauties, fragrant and ripe, in the organic produce section. Hallelujah! I had a second chance to make my very favorite jam, apricot vanilla bean. With the addition of spiced rum, this bright jam smells like sunshine in the Indies.

Growing up, my mother, brother, and I made jam in the summers. This one was my favorite, followed by raspberry. 

I find I prefer jams made without pectin. I like the softer consistency and, because I can use less sugar, a more pure fruit flavor. Less sweet jams lend themselves better to savory dishes, as well. I thought I would update my great-grandmother's apricot jam recipe, omit the pectin, but keep the vanilla bean. With inspiration from Jess at Sweet Amandine and Erika's method for pectin-free jam, I created this luscious, velvety, apricot jam infused with vanilla bean and spiced rum.


If you are not familiar with water bath canning, I suggest you read up here, or check some books out from the library.

Apricot Vanilla Bean Jam
makes about 5 cups

3 lbs apricots
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons spiced rum
3 vanilla beans

Halve and pit the apricots and place in a bowl. Add the sugar, toss to combine, cover and place in the refrigerator to macerate overnight or longer.

When you are ready to can, sterilize the jars in the water bath and warm the rings and lids in a separate small pot of water.

Heat the apricot-sugar mixture in a large saute pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until boiling and the fruit softens, about 20 minutes.

Add the lemon juice and stir to combine.

Prepare your vanilla beans by cutting in half, and slicing down the center to open the pods.

Continue to cook the jam for another 20-30 minutes. For a chunky jam, mash the fruit with the back of a wooden spoon as it cooks. If you prefer a smoother consistency, process some or all of it with an immersion blender or food processor.

When the jam has thickened, taste and adjust for sugar. I added another 1/2 cup sugar at this point, but yours may not need it. Add the rum.

Check for doneness. I like the cold plate test.

One at a time, remove jars from the water bath, place inside half a vanilla bean, and fill with jam. Remove air bubbles, wipe the rim with a damp cloth, and seal the jars.

Process the jars in a water bath for 10 minutes.

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