I am increasingly pleased that we have come to live here at Molesworth , as the reputation of the Derwent Valley would have it, the summer fruits are starting to roll through the door, almost literally. Yesterday I had a problem with the new stove in the school. The gas fitter who came to repair it, by now a good friend, brought me a huge basketful of apricots from his own tree. It looks as if they are Moor Parks, my all-time favourite variety. This morning I’ve made jam from them. Of course it’s great on toast or scones, but I like to add it to a curry or casserole style dish for just a touch of fruity sweetness.
Some apricots are lower in pectin, so you can reduce the sugar to match. A principle of jam making is less pectin in the fruit, use less sugar. I don’t reduce it too much from the 500g fruit to 500g sugar formula however as I don’t want the jam to go mouldy – maybe just cut it back to 450g sugar to 500g fruit.
The apricots are so very good that a large number of them went into the Fowlers jars – halves preserved in a medium sugar syrup. They are the most versatile of all bottled fruit as they can be used later in desserts, cakes and are delicious served for breakfast with cereal and yoghurt. They can even be used in savoury dishes such as Apricot Chicken Parcels with a mint and apricot sauce (recipe in “A Year in a Bottle”).
To preserve them you just need to place the rings on the jars and fill with the apricot halves. Pour in your preserving liquid of choice. You can just use water, or any strength sugar syrup; heavy = equal parts sugar and water, medium = one part sugar to two parts water, light = one part sugar to four parts water. Fill the jars to the brim, place on lids and clips, place in the preserver and then pour in cool water to come up to the tops of the lids. I preserve them at 85 degrees C for one and a quarter hours. This is using a thermostat controlled preserver. If you have an older model which is not, bring the temperature up slowly to 85 (it must take at least 45 minutes to an hour to do so), then hold at this temperature for half an hour. Remove the bottles from the preserver and lave to stand undisturbed for 24 hours before removing clips.
Later in the day Stephanie arrived with a 5kg container of raspberries for me. She and the children had been picking at a friend’s property not far away. A mere morning of picking had yielded several bucketfuls of raspberries. What to do with those … in the end I’ve made cordial and jam. You can never have enough raspberry jam. If you have made it and are disappointed with it discolouring on the shelf (as it tends to do) try storing the jars in the freezer. Truly. The jam doesn’t expand and lift the lids as you think it might – the reason for this is that the jam never actually freezes due to the sugar content.
When you take it out it’s ready to eat immediately, albeit a little cold. I’ve stored the jam for ages like this and it keeps it colour and flavor as long as it’s in there. Store the opened jar in the fridge.
Apricot jam tends to discolour with storing as well, so the freezer trick works with that also.
Later in the day we were able to pick the first of the raspberries and loganberries from our own patch. It’s shaping up to be a great summer of preserving. Bliss.
Here are some of the end results, as well as a snapshot of that first precious bowl of berries from our own patch.