Apricot jam you may be asking yourself? What! I have been watching the slow motion car crash of the general election for several weeks, and this week the incomprehensible tragedy of Grenfell Towers. I’m pretty angry about the obvious shortcuts and penny pinching that made what should have been a fire contained within one flat consume an entire building with hundreds and hundreds of people sleeping in their beds.
I say this, as a post on jam seems frivolous beyond belief right now and I have no wish to downplay what is happening.
So, just putting it out there, if you want to make jam, here’s a good recipe.
Damn Fine Apricot Jam
Priced at Aldi, June 2017
1kg apricots, 3 punnets at 49p each, £1.47
1.4kg ordinary granulated sugar, 59p/kg, 82p
3 tablespoons, 45ml, lemon juice, 250ml/39p, 7p
A generous knob of butter
Total cost £2.36, each jar 39p.
Total yield 6 standard jam jars and a little extra.
I used 3 punnets from Aldi on their super 6. Apricots vary in price throughout the year but will be cheapest in the summer months.
Rinse the apricots, then halve and destone them. Slice them and put in a large saucepan able to tolerate very hot temperatures. You don’t need a preserving pan if you haven’t got one. If you do have one of course, feel free to use it. Add a quarter pint / 140ml water. Cover, bring to the boil, and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until the fruit is well broken up. You may need to mush it up a bit, once the sugar is added, the apricots won’t break up much more.
Once the fruit is softened, add the sugar, bring back to the boil and simmer quite hard, with the lid off, until setting point is reached.
You can test this by putting a teaspoon of jam on a cold saucer and putting it in the fridge for a couple of minutes. If it’s ready, it will have formed a skin in that time and when you push it gently with a finger you’ll see that skin.
If you have a thermometer able to measure high enough, it should set when it reaches 105c/220f. Just keep simmering until it’s ready, but, on the other hand, don’t simmer more than necessary, or the lovely fresh flavour will gradually be lost.
While the jam is simmering, sort your jam jars out. I had already washed them, so popped them in a low oven to sterilise them. Some people use jars fresh from the dishwasher. Whatever you do, they need to be very clean, and dry. Any water in the jars allows a sugar syrup to develop, and over time, that may well grow mould, spoiling your lovely jam. And they need to be scrupulously clean so your jam will keep well, there must be no germs, bacteria or mould spores at all in the jars. And don’t forget the lids. If you are not using lids, cover the jars with cellophane circles and elastic bands. Or use circles cut from cereal box inners and perhaps a pretty ribbon. A little gingham fabric looks fabulous. Anything that will keep the jam clean and dry will do the job.
Once the jam is ready to set, stir in a generous knob of butter. Stir well. Put your jars on a heatproof surface and carefully ladle in the jam. Be careful, splashes will badly burn you at this temperature.
This batch should yield 6 jam jars full and a little leftover. I usually put a very clean tea towel over the filled jars until they are just warm and only then put the lid on. The tea towel is to keep any mould spores in the air, off the surface of the jam.
Six beautiful jars of jam. It has a delightful fresh flavour, I’m sure I can taste that lemon juice!
Apricot is Mike’s favourite jam, so is well worth making for us. When I priced it up for this post, I couldn’t believe how cheap it worked out to be. Obviously, getting the apricots on Super 6 helped a lot, but it is still much cheaper than buying premium jam even without that. And premium jam is what this tastes like. It’s a Mrs Beeton recipe, and one I have been making for a huge number of years.
If you like to make gift hampers for Christmas or any other occasion, a jar or two of this would be a very tasty addition.