It was inevitable after my marmalade making fun earlier this year that I would enter the jam making world as well. It came about accidentally when after buying some plump looking apricots in the market as a change from the constant stream of flat peaches and white nectarines, I bit into one and all I could think was ‘cotton wool’. The apricot is a fruit has doesn’t work for me unless it’s cooked. I roasted the rest of that batch, scattered with rosewater and flaked almonds and they were fantastic on bircher muesli.
But after a Twitter conversation with the lovely @RachaelParkman who is the Peckham preserve queen, I decided my first foray into jam would be apricot so that the taste of summer would remain at my table for months to come. Plus it makes such a good base for cake decorating, I might do more marzipan making.
I turned to my preserve Bible ‘Let’s Preserve It‘ by Beryl Wood which was reissued recently in hardback and it’s delightfully British and excellent on jams and conserves. (For the record, jams are cooked down fruit puree, while conserves retain chunks of fruit in with the puree.) I must say, I only picked the conserve recipe because it used less sugar and I’d brilliantly managed to tip a good amount of my kilo bag down the side of the cooker and into the box of mouse poison there and couldn’t be bothered to go to the shop for more…
Apricot and Rosewater Conserve: makes about 6 jars each 160ml*
- 900g (2lbs) fresh apricots
- 900g sugar
- 1/4 pint water
- juice of two lemons
- 2 tbsp rosewater
- 2 tbsp rose petals (optional)
Make sure your apricots aren’t bruised. Soft ripe fruit is fine, but don’t use fruit you wouldn’t eat yourself or it can make the conserve bitter. Wash well. Stone the fruit and then cut each half into quarters.
Put the fruit in a pan with the sugar and the lemon juice and and heat gently along with the water until it is boiling gently and then continue boiling until it starts to set. This took me about 30-40 minutes while the fruit broke down into a pulp and the sugar and water became syrupy. Stir frequently. I then used the good old wrinkle test on a cold saucer and then took the pan off the heat.
I added in one tablespoon of the rosewater and tested another snippet of the jam on the saucer until it cooled and tasted it. It wasn’t quite enough so I added a second scant spoonful and then added in the rose petals. I’d sprinkled these lightly with water so that they didn’t float in the conserve and stirred them through well before filling my jars as usual.
This was very easy to make and lifted some uninspiring fruit to something really wonderful. The rosewater brings out the apricots’ sweetness and makes this a very grown up addition to the breakfast table. I love the texture with its chunks of fruit instead of the sticky-sweet nature of commercial preserves. I’ve been heaping it on toast and enjoying the summer flavours as the season changes…
*I use Sainsbury’s Basic Mint Sauce jars. Under 30p a jar and a useful marinade, they are the best way I’ve found to get standard sized jars for jam and marmalade that aren’t huge or very expensive. Plus I enjoy the look on the delivery driver’s face when he hands me 14 jars of mint sauce.