I have so many memories of hot jam. Somehow eating steaming spoonfuls of the skimmed off jam foam on slices of homemade bread connected with some synapse in my brain that says, “you are home.” Sticky and sweet: strawberry, peach and raspberry were the flavors my mother made most. I loved them all on spread with into a sandwich with cream cheese on days I tired of peanut butter. I rarely tired of her jam. Homemade jar was a constant of my childhood. At the end of it, when my mom dropped me off at college, she first took me to the grocery store. She bought some strawberries, pectin and a few containers, since I owned nothing. Back at my new apartment, she made me one final batch. I happily ate that strawberry jam for months while I was at school, and felt settled and content whenever I pulled a precious container from the fridge.
With each of our several moves, there always seems to be a small stretch of time where we rely on jams I’ve bought at the store or farmer’s market until I can get things together enough to start making my own again. Strawberry freezer jam was our standard when we were first married. I branched into sour cherry, blackberry, mulberry and apricot later on. I fell in love with Pomona’s Pectin and made jam with as little or much sweetener as I wanted, and whatever kind I wanted (honey, maple syrup, brown sugar!). But this year I’ve been venturing into other additions to the fruit.
Inspired by a jar of apricot pepper jelly made by Tiffany’s mom, I knew this year I wanted to make something that played nicely with savory items. I have a chicken recipe that is everyone’s favorite around here that starts with a bit of apricot jam, so knowing how well those pair together, I went with apricot and rosemary. I happened to have more than a little of each on hand and so, it seemed like the natural choice (even just fridge clearing-wise). For this jam, I didn’t want lots of sugar, since I knew I would pair it with cheese and other savories, so I knew traditional pectin was not an option. I recently tried Ball’s new formula of pectin for low and no sugar recipes for another jam project, and loved it so much better than its predecessor; but still favor Pomona’s if you want a more jelled-style jam. However, I didn’t use any of those. For this one, I went for a more traditional approach, no added pectin; I wanted an artisan style of preserves. The beauty of preserves is since you are not worrying about sugar content to set the pectin, you can really do whatever you like.
Cut, puree, or chop the fruit to your liking, add in sweetener to taste, and any other goodness you can dream up. Maybe a split and scraped vanilla bean, a drop of almond extract, some orange zest, minced peppers or chopped herbs. Then simmer until the flavors have come together nicely, and the fruit has simmered down to your desired consistency. Finish it up in hot, clean jars. Put them in a hot, steamy water bath, and seal yourself a bit of the season to last all year.
And don’t worry if you don’t have a giant canning pot, I just bought my first one a month ago. I have been doing all of my canning up until now in small batches using my larger size pots. I would often make the jam in my stock pot, fill the jars, wash the stock pot and then process them in the same pot or a large saucepan that held a few jars at a time.
Apricot Rosemary Preserves
makes 4 pints Food in Jars
8 cups mashed or chopped apricots (about four pounds whole fruit)
1-2 cups sugar (more or less depending on the sweeteness of your fruit and your taste, I used 1 1/2 cups)
1/3 cup finely chopped rosemary
1 lemon, juiced
Prepare a water bath canner or large pot with boiling water and 4 pint or 8 half pint jars. Place lids in a small pan of hot water.
Combine mashed apricots, sugar and rosemary in a large, non-reactive pot and bring to a boil. If your pot is too small, it will splatter everywhere. Just a warning. Don’t cover the pot, since you want it to reduce a bit. All the preserves to cook until the mixture thickens and coats a spoon thickly. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down and let it simmer. I let mine bubble along for about 45 minutes on low.
When jam seems thick and spreadable, stir in the lemon juice. Turn off the heat.
Carefully ladle jam into the jars. Wipe jars, top with lids and rings and process them covered with hot water for 10 minutes. Remove jars from pot and set them on a towel on the counter to cool. Seals will pop and set. Tighten the rings. If any of the jars didn’t seal, process again or just put straight into the fridge for immediate use. Sealed jars and be tucked away and stored.