Thursday, 19 June 2008

Apricot jam (Μαρμελάδα βερύκοκο)

The house is inundated with fresh produce at the moment - apart from zucchini which always seems to outdo itself every year, there are aubergines (I need to start making moussaka), vlita (I have given away two bagfuls so far and collected half a dozen myself)) and onions (they'll last till the end of summer). The peppers are also doing well, while the tomatoes are starting to ripen (ftou ftou ftou, to avoid the plants becoming cursed).

The apricot tree (on the right) also gave us about five kilos of apricots all in one go. Apricots are delicious, but you can't get through five kilos very quickly. If you've been eating a lot of vegetables, apricots don't go down very well. I've just picked out the softer ones and turned them into jam for breakfast in the autumn. Delia Smith includes an all-purpose jam recipe for plums in her Complete Cookery Course, which can be replaced by similar soft stone fruit like peaches and apricots. I've used Delia's recipe for orange and lemon marmalade, with great success, and this one is no different. Delia may call it preserve, but I prefer the more common name - jam.

apricots for jamapricot jam
You need:
1 kilo of stoned fruit, halved or cut into smaller pieces if you don't prefer whole fruit in your jam
750g sugar
the juice of a lemon

If the fruit is very soft (and therefore not so tasty as fresh fruit), let it stew uncovered on the lowest heat to let out all the juices. The fruit doesn't have to be in perfect condition - it will not affect the taste, texture or colour. If the fruit is hard, you may need to add some water to the pot. Once the fruit is soft and mushy, add the sugar and stir it into the fruit thoroughly so that it leaves no granules. Once this is done, stir in the lemon juice and let the jam cook on low heat for another half an hour.

She also uses the kernels extracted from the stones of the fruit, but that's just for decoration. Another nice addition in this jam is shavings of lemon peel added in the final stage of cooking. It's nice, but not if you have young children, who want to eat plain jam, not gourmet preserve!

apricot jam setapricot jam
Delia has a wonderful way to check when jam or marmalade is ready to set once the sugar has boiled with the fruit. Place a saucer in the deep freeze. When you are ready to check the set of the jam, take out the frozen plate, and place a teaspoonful of the jam on it. "Allow it to cool for a few seconds, then push it with your finger: if a crinkly skin has formed on the jam, then it has set. If it hasn't set, boil it again for another 5 minutes and do another test." This really works!

When the jam is ready, let it settle before pouring it into warmed sterilised jars. I seal mine with a piece of plastic wrap while the jam is still hot, then secure the jars with the lid. When I'm ready to open the jar for use, I hear a little popping sound, the same kind you hear when opening a store-bought jar of preserved fruit or vegetables, and I know that I've sealed the jar correctly.

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