For many of us, spending the whole day in the kitchen canning is a realm in heaven. Others just scoff and roll their eyes: who has that kind of time on their hands? While I usually fall into the former category, this past week I was also part of the later. Busy, busy, busy me. At the same time, a 1/2 case of coveted, rare Blenheim apricots were reaching their peak on my kitchen counter. What's a canning geek to do?
When fruit is ripe, you have to act quickly because one minute it's perfection and then you blink your eyes and -bleh!- its a fuzzy, soupy mess. This weekend I had planned on jamming and canning up 9 lbs of beautiful, uncommon Blenheim apricots which my veg box farmer had rushed into the city. "It's an apricot emergency!" she wrote in her email on Thursday, and we lined up the following day to get our hands on the prize.
By Sunday evening it was clear I wasn't going to have the time to can, so I stoned and quartered the fruit, threw in the sugar, gave it a gentle stir and put it in the refrigerator overnight. Monday evening I took it out and simmered it for about 10 minutes on the stove and then returned it to the refrigerator. Tuesday night I simmered it again and finished the canning process. So beautiful and delicious!
The three-day time frame isn't set in stone. You could probably stretch this method out a day or two longer, provided you keep the fruit and sugar mixture chilled to avoid fermentation.
3-Day Apricot Jam makes 10-1/2 pint jars
6# of apricots (the other 3# I gave away to a friend) approx 4 cups of cane sugar (I like my jam a little tart) 1/4 cup of lemon juice
Cut the apricots in half, pop out the stone and cut the halves again to quarters. Place in a glass bowl and add the sugar and lemon juice. Give a gentle stir, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, place the apricots and sugar in a large pan (I use an enameled steel Le Creuset dutch oven) and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the fruit starts to break down. Turn off the heat, cover and let cool on the stove. Before going to bed, return the pot to the refrigerator.
The following day, bring the pot to a gentle simmer again and cook the jam until it sets. This can take another 20-30 minutes of simmering. Put your waterbath water on the flame so it comes to a boil in time for the canning. Meanwhile, sterilize 10-12 pint-sized jam jars by placing them in the oven on a cookie sheet (without their lids) at 250˚ for 30 minutes. Pour boiling water over the lids to sterilize them. Drain and keep nearby.
When the jam is done (how do you know when your jam is done?) ladle into the warm jars and wipe off any spills around the rim. Place the lids on the jars and lightly screw on the rings. Process in the waterbath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove from the water and place on a tea towel to dry. Take deep pleasure and satisfaction in the 'ping' sound the lids make when they seal. Let cool, label and share liberally with friends and friends-to-be.