When Only Australian Apricots Will Do!

Apricot jam has a special place in my heart. I long for the days when I knew someone, who knew someone, who had apricot trees and shared the fruit around with those who would appreciate it. The offer was most often preceded by, “Do you make much jam?” or something equally similar. The amount of bounty one received was dependant upon the answer and level of enthusiasm for the joys of homemade preserves. These days I make do with purchasing good fresh Australian apricots from my local fruiterer when they are on special.

The apricots must be Australian grown, I dislike intensely the flavour of Turkish apricots and bemoan the fact that our Australian stone fruit industry has been so decimated by government stupidity and lack of grower support over many years.

Some types of Stonefruit are my very favourite fruits with Cherries being the absolute and most favourite, and Peaches coming in second. Unfortunately, the flavour of our fruits have altered in favour of shelf life, so I don’t buy as much as I used to.

Having acquired these apricots in the same fruit and veg delivery as the corn for the Corn Relish, time and energy expenditure needed to be managed to ensure success for both outcomes. Having learned the value of macerating the fruits for jam from my Strawberry Jam adventures I knew I could allow several days for extra ripening of the apricots before macerating them for a couple of days, thus allowing me time to recover from any physical strain from making the Corn Relish and other incidental activities. It’s a real pain, quite literally, not being as physically able as I once was.

I forgot to take progress photos of the maceration and cooking process and I wish I had because it’s such a delightful experience seeing the amount of juice drawn from the fruit by the sugar, and the softening of the fruit and it all eventually thickening just as it should. Then there’s the aroma of the fruit as it warms in the pan. These seemingly small things are so rewarding, and along with the incredible flavours of the homemade end product, unlike anything one can purchase from a store, are what keep me making jams, pickles, and relishes. Small amounts can make an ordinary snack or meal quite extraordinary.

The good old Women’s Weekly Cookbook has the recipe I used. However, I made a couple of changes because I don’t like overly sweet jams, and because I have to monitor carb consumption. Thus, I had 2kg of apricots, and reduced amount of sugar from 2kg to 1kg 700gm, and to ensure a proper thickness, I added Pectin (Jamsetta) as well as the 1/2 cup of Lemon Juice. I cleaned and quartered the apricots, then macerated them in one kilo of sugar in the fridge for two days first. I wasn’t sure the full amount would fit in the container and there was not much room left in the fridge.

I ended up with nine jars of absolutely delicious Apricot Jam, yes there are only eight in the image because we’d already started using some before I thought to take photos.

Jamsetta, extra sugar, vinegar, spices, clean empty jars and lids, and other tools, like funnels and a ladle are things I have on hand through the act of preparedness. I cook preserves in a large electric wok, and steam sterilise my jars and lids in a rather large steamer. Maybe it comes from being the product of a depression era family, or from living with a baby in the back of beyond where the closest shop was a two hour drive away, or maybe it comes from knowing myself and that one day I will suddenly decide I want to turn those veges I bought the other day into a raita or pickle or relish.

When you cook, bake and make preserves from scratch, you have to have those ‘scratch’ ingredients near to hand or there’s no savings, or enjoyment at all to be had.

If you’d like to try your hand at making, whatever it is, but don’t feel like you quite know how to, start with making a list of what will be needed and acquiring it. If it’s preserves of some sort, start by saving jars and lids from your purchases, get your friends to save them for you too. Research the hows and whys, well before you’re going ahead with your project.

Don’t necessarily trust just any recipe you find online either, not every recipe is accurate, and different countries use differently sized measuring cups – yes who’d have thought! I have a lovely pastel set of Japanese sized measuring cups (Japanese cup = 200ml : Australian cup = 250ml) because I did not check the volume. Ah, the joys of learning.

Be aware that Cup volume size differs from country to country. Check numerous recipes, and read comments for what might have gone wrong or right. Trust yourself if it ‘feels’ wrong, and find another recipe. Wikibooks Cookbook is a nifty go to for tried and true recipes from all over the world.

Doing the required research and acquiring the necessary ingredients and tools you’ll need will help you succeed. Then make an appointment with yourself, your workspace, tools and ingredients to do it. There will be failures, some of which will still be edible, learn from them and do better next time. Every jar of succulent delight is worth the time and effort it took to make it.

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