To make apricot preserves, the method and ingredients are very simple: sugar, water, lemon juice, and apricots that get pitted just by splitting them open with your hands. But the process does require a heaping portion of…you. An hour’s worth of your hand stirring to prevent scorching and your patience waiting for the fruit and sugar to cook properly. Take this as an opportunity to chew on some daydreams you’ve been wanting to have. A mind needs time to wander, don’t you think? Or you can hoist yourself up on the counter and sit there listening to your mother while she stirs the pot, like I did.
Maureen: What kinds of trees did you have in your yard growing up in Ohio?
Mom: We had a mulberry tree, we had a quince tree, we had an apple tree—a huge apple tree. We had a cherry tree, and of course we had an apricot tree. My grandparents, who had lived next door, had a pear tree in their yard. I never knew them because they died before I was born. But my sisters said that when they went over to her house, my grandmother told them to stand right there in the doorway and not to go any farther. She had nice oriental rugs and a shiny floor, I guess.
Not much of a grandmother.
No. So we had a lot of fruit and we ate all of our own fruit. My mother canned everything she could get her hands on, and she just never sat down. She used to core and freeze the coosa. She made a lot of fataya and put them in the freezer so she could pull them out for company. She used to use purchased biscuit dough, roll them out, and put the filling in. They were very flaky and good. That was later on; when she was younger she did everything from scratch. I remember her beating and beating and beating an angel food cake to fluff the egg whites. All by hand. I’d stand there and she’d say, “Put the sugar in. Now put more sugar in. Now put more sugar in.” She had a big balloon whisk.
Funny, that’s exactly how we learned to do it in cooking school. Do you want to sit down now?
Oh, I don’t sit too much. My mom always put paraffin on top of the jam to seal it. We’re not doing that. We don’t need to seal anything. Just simple; make it and refrigerate it and eat it. You can also freeze it, and we should make more so we can have some during the winter. I love apricot jam the best. I always have strawberry and those others, but they pale. They just pale in comparison.
These apricots are going nicely honey. It’s doing it, it’s getting thick and it’s still chunky. That’s what it’s all about, getting a nice big piece of the fruit on your toast so you can really taste it.
The sweet-tart flavor of these preserves goes outrageously well with something creamy, like labne (or cream cheese, or ricotta, or…you get the picture) on toast made from really good bread. I bought an Italian loaf from the excellent Crooked Tree Bread Works in Petoskey.
2 lbs. apricots
1 1/3 cups sugar
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pit the apricots by splitting them between your thumbs and removing the pit. Not many fruits yield so easily or perfectly to the touch, so enjoy.
In a heavy medium saucepan, add the sugar and water and stir just to combine. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has melted and the mixture begins to simmer.
Immediately add half of the apricots and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the apricots are very soft and falling apart, about ½ hour. Scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir to prevent scorching.
Add the rest of the apricots and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat again, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens and the apricots have softened but some pieces still remain, another ½ hour.
Taste. Depending on how tart the preserves are, and how tart you like it, add 1 tablespoon or more of lemon juice.
Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes, then pour into jars. Cover and refrigerate. These preserves should be kept refrigerated rather than on the pantry shelf.
A PDF of this recipe can be found here.