The apricot season has arrived and that always makes me feel like its the start of summer. I love apricots there is something special about their beautiful velvety orange skin; freckled with red. They are not too juicy but smooth and sweet and sometimes tart with a musky unique flavour.
Because the apricots are imported slightly under ripe we never get a chance to taste them fully ripe and nearly bursting with juice flavour. So the best way to bring out that wonderful apricot taste is by poaching, baking, grilling or preserving them in a jam (they make excellent jam) and enhancing their flavour with honey, flower waters ( orange and rose ), dessert wines and vanilla.
Apricots are not often grown in the UK, mainly because they are not so easy to grow in our climate. They flower very early and are susceptible to frost, so they need to be planted in a sheltered, warm South facing spot, and ideally grown as fans on a south facing wall. I would love to grow apricots and be able to pick them when fully ripe and juicy, but sadly we have not got the space left on a south facing wall. The space we have has already been given over to our fig tree which is producing more and more succulent figs every year, a climbing rose and a rampant vine.
- 1kg slightly under-ripe apricots
- finely grated zest of 2 lemons
- juice of 3 lemons
- 400ml fresh apple juice (or water)
- 1kg granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla pod (slit down the middle with a sharp knife, but not in half)
- Cut the apricots into quarters and discard the stones.
- Put the apricots, lemon zest, vanilla pod and apple juice into a preserving pan, bring up to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. The fruit will be nice and soft.
- Stir in the sugar (don't over stir its nice to keep some texture to the fruit), turn up the heat and bring up to a rolling boil. After 15-20 minutes remove from the heat and test for a set.
- When the jam has reached setting point allow to cool slightly, snip a piece of the vanilla pod into each sterilised jam jar.Then ladle or pour in the jam.
- Seal and label.
- This jam will keep for up to 12 months.
For info on testing for a set, please take a look at my previous posts for the Rhubarb and mint jelly or the Seville orange and cardamom seed marmalade recipes.
Slitting the vanilla pod allows the tiny black seeds to be released into the jam. Apricot and vanilla make for a great flavour combination. The vanilla flavour enhances with the addition of the little piece of the vanilla pod sitting within as the jam matures.
Apricot jam is a late spring/early summer ‘must’ make preserve, wonderfully fragrant and perfect thickly spread on hot buttered sour dough toast, a delicious filling for jam tarts, layered on the bottom of a Bakewell tart, spooned into warm scones with a dollop of thick cream and used to sandwich together a light and airy victoria sponge cake.
I hope you have a go at making this delicious apricot and vanilla jam making the most of the exciting arrival of fresh apricots! Happy preserving and eating!