Apricot season lasts only a minute or two so now is the time to make some apricot preserves.
Here is what you need to know. Apricots vary enormously. Some have a sweet, perfumed scent and are juicy and tender like a peach. And some have thin melt-away skin.
And then there are the tougher skinned ones, and virtually-tasteless-until-cooked types.
All of them make for lovely jams. Even mushy apricots transform in the preserving pot to make a wonderful buttery spread. Buy your apricots when they are firm and have no spots. If black spots are evident anywhere, the fruit may have been picked or packed when damp. These fruits will spoil quickly, and as all apricots benefit from additional ripening off the tree, the spoilage factor goes way up with the black spotted yuck.
So, bring your fruit home and let it sit out, on the counter in a basket (airflow) or on a rack padded with paper or cloth towels, for two, three, or four days, until the fruit is scented and softening.
If the apricots are thick skinned, bringing the sugar and fruit to a simmer before the first maceration will separate the skins from the fruit. This is a real pain in the neck task, but it does keep the skins of the fruit from separating in the jam and having little chewy unattractive pieces floating here and there.
Clearly, it’s advantageous to find thin skinned apricots.
If you have a lot of apricots, lucky you! Here are four more recipes I posted last year.
Caramel Apricot Pistachio Conserve
5 or 6 half pints
3 lbs. apricots
2 lemons, juiced
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
6 oz wildflower (light colored) honey
4 oz apple or gooseberry pectin
1/4 tsp. orange flower water
1-1/2 cups roasted, salted pistachios
Halve and pit the apricots. Stir together with the lemon juice, sugars and honey.
If your apricots are thick skinned, bring this mixture to a simmer, then cover and refrigerate 8-12 hours. If your apricots are thin skinned, skip this step and just cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
Strain the apricots over the preserving pan. Bring the sugar syrup to 215° on a candy thermometer. This will take about 40 minutes.
(In the meantime, if your apricots are thick skinned, you can pluck the peels from the apricots. Dreadful task, but worth it.)
When the syrup has reached temperature, add back the apricots and bring the mixture to a very strong boil, stirring all the time.
Add the pectin and return to a boil. The surface of the preserves will start to wrinkle a bit when gently pushed.
Add the orange water and the pistachios, stir well, and ladle the hot conserves into warm jars.
Process 15 minutes in a waterbath.