Saturday 27 July 2013

Apricot and cardamom jam

I can't believe I've got to the age I have (don't ask!) without ever having made a pot of jam. Marmalade, yes, as regulars may recall from this post but jam and chutney, never. Which makes no sense considering the cost of good preserves these days - about £3.50-4 a small jar in farmers' markets and posh delis.

I decided this year was going to be the year to break my duck and lugged down a large bag of jars and an armful of preserving books to our house in the south of France. After all fruit and veg is cheap down here so it sounded like a good holiday project.

It's actually been so hot for the last few days I couldn't face it but yesterday I made my first batch of apricot jam (my favourite) based on a recipe in my friend, cookery writer Thane Prince's Jams and Chutneys. Needless to say I couldn't resist going off-piste a little - I like my jam slightly less sweet than most and had this hunch that cardamom would be a great addition (it is!) but Thane's recipe gave me an excellent basis to work on.

Apricot and cardamom jam
Makes about 4 x 400g jars

I kg of apricots (not over-ripe which shouldn't be a problem in the UK as they never are)
Juice of 1-1 1/2 lemons (about 4-5 tbsp)
8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
900g jam sugar (with added pectin. If you like your jam tart you might even be able to do with a little less)

You will also need 4-5 350g-400g sterilised jam jars and a cold saucer to test the set

Wash the apricots and quarter or halve them depending on how large they are. Put in a large saucepan or preserving pan with the lemon juice, crushed cardamoms and 400ml water and bring slowly to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the apricots are soft but still retaining their shape, skimming off any scum (that sounds horrible doesn't it? Let's call it froth) that appears on the surface.

Turn off the heat and tip in the sugar and gently stir then leave the pan for a couple of minutes off the heat for the sugar to dissolve. Gradually back to the boil and boil hard for 5 minutes or so until the jam looks like setting, skimming off the scum (sorry, froth) as you go. Take the pan off the heat and spoon a little onto your chilled saucer. Leave it a minute then run your finger through it. If it's set it should crinkle slightly. If not boil (the jam, not your finger) for 3-4 minutes more.

Once the jam is set take off the heat. Warm the jars in a moderate oven. Stir the jam then ladle or pour into the hot jars. Seal with the lids or a cellophane jam jar cover, wiping the outside of the jar with a damp cloth. Label once cool. Slather over baguette and French butter. Drool.

Just a wee taster to make sure it's OK ...

Cost? Apricots around €2.60 a kilo, sugar 1.28€ a kilo bag (I used slightly less), lemon about .30€ and cardamoms I already had so roughly 1€ (86p) a jar for the most heavenly scented apricot jam you can imagine. Can't wait to make more.

Are you also a novice or a regular jam maker and what are your favourite jams?