Wow, I recently realized that I blew past my first blog anniversary without really thinking about it much. Last July, I started this new little project and really was not sure if it would stick or if anyone but the husband would actually read it. I had kind of big learning curve with figuring out how things work in the blogging world, but it’s been a fun year. I still enjoying doing it, so, until I run out of things to say, I guess I will keep on going. Starting the blog coincided with a renewal of a couple of interests I had left behind when my kids were little and more needy, one of which is canning.
Last year, my first blog post included this picture.
This was the first of many posts about jam. I just love jam and I have really loved making my own jam over the last year. At its peak, my jam cupboard had over 60 jars of jam in it. I was so happy to be jamming again that I just made jam all the time. My collection has dwindled somewhat over the winter, but it is still substantial. In fact, I have such an excess of jam that I have been really choosy about the jams I have been making this season. I am using only the best looking, ripest, tastiest fruit I can find and I think I can tell a difference in the quality of my jams so far.
I find myself thinking after every jam I have made in the past few months, “Wow! This is the best jam I have ever had.” Well, clearly, I am fickle because it can’t be true for every single jam I have made this season so far, but I still think it. Maybe what I really mean is, “Wow! I can’t believe I can make something so incredibly tasty!” Lately, I found myself thinking these thoughts about my most recent jam.
Maybe it’s the extremely hot summer we have been having, but all the fruit seems more flavorful and beautiful than years in recent memory. Look at these beautiful apricots I found at the local roadside stand. I almost didn’t buy them. They were a little pricey, but I decided to splurge on making a jam that I had yet to make to my satisfaction. Last year’s apricot jam was made with supermarket fruit and it was runny and not very flavorful. Seldom do I find locally grown apricots that look this good. I think apricots just don’t do well in this region, but maybe this year’s weird weather is just what they like. In any case, I was determined to try making a better jam this year and I had a few more tricks up my sleeve for doing it.
First trick: Let the fruit macerate for awhile.
I rough sliced 2.5 pounds(after pitting) of apricots and tossed it with 2 pounds of sugar and the juice of two lemons. I let it sit at room temperature for 20 hours. I stirred it occasionally and the next morning, it looked like this.
Look at all that juicy syrupy yumminess! Next, I brought the pot to a boil. Here’s the next trick I used: After the mixture had come to a boil, I used a large strainer spoon and pulled out as many fruit chunks as I could. I did this because I wanted some chunks of fruit in my final product. If I just let it boil away for half an hour, all the fruit would disintegrate and it would be more like a puree. That is not what I wanted. Then, I let the remaining sugar/juice mixture boil away until the setting point. At first it bubbled and foamed up quite a bit.
The bubbles are pretty big and it sounds more or less like boiling water. I did not skim it right away. I choose to do that later to try to keep as much of the volume of the jam as possible.
After a little while, it looked more like this. Still very foamy, but the bubbles are much smaller and denser. I turned down the heat a bit and started testing the liquid. It was almost ready, so I added the apricots back in to cook for a few minutes.
Still pretty foamy, right? Well, this is when I started skimming, but I did it skimpily. I also added the grated zest of the two lemons I used earlier. Then, I jarred them up and processed them.
They look pretty good, don’t they? I almost forgot to tell you, I put one apricot kernel in the bottom of the jars (2 kernels for the big jar). This supposed to impart a subtle flavor, but I won’t know until I open one up. All I can tell you is that this might be the best apricot jam I have every tasted. It’s not as clear as I would like. The foam was hard to get rid of, but I think a little is ok for this time. I love that the flavor is just pure apricot, with no other flavors to change it. The color is great and it is nice and thick with bits of fruit to chew on, but still spreadable. I am really happy with this jam and I feel that it represents a lot of things that I have learned about jam making this past year. I still have a lot to learn, though, so this will not be the last time I make this jam. In fact, I already have an idea of how to cut down the foam, but I’ll save that for another day.
Likewise, I have really learned a lot through my year of blogging. I love how I can look back and really see what I have learned through my posts. I have had a lot of successes, but also a lot of failures and it has all been good because of what I have learned through the process. Thank you for joining me on my jamming, crafting, baking, and other crazy adventures and misadventures. Here’s hoping there will be many more adventures (and jars of jam) ahead.