[ RECIPE: SUMMER JAMS – APRICOT & PLUM ]
When I was young we had a massive apricot tree in our backyard. It was my favourite tree in the whole world in Summer.
It’s huge shady limbs provided a secret hideaway and food source for me on hot Summer days. I used to sit in the swaying branches of the tree, amongst the birds, caterpillars, moths and cicadas and eat my way through the warm fruit that surrounded me. I’d eat till I had a belly ache…then I’d run inside…wait a while and do it all again!
There is something sublime about picking golden soft fruit straight from the tree, biting into its warm, juicy deliciousness and devouring it…juices running down your chin and hands…
I’d eat the fruit in silence in my apricot tree house – appreciating its simplicity, sweetness and the wonder of nature. I love nature. Even all those years ago I’d marvel at her brilliance, how the buds formed and the Sun warmed the skin and the flesh turned from green to flushed pink and orange…however did she do it – I thought…Mother nature is so damn clever!
My grandfathers generation were orchardists. We had a large farm in Northern Victoria – Ballendella to be exact, where we grew apricots, pears, peaches and plums. I’ve grown up with my Great Aunt Olive preserving fruit and picking it when it was ‘just right’. I think all that information, all that passion gets into your psyche and as I prepare my fruit each year I always get flashbacks to little memories and smells that made me childhood seem so wonderful.
I’ve had a French recipe on hand for many years that makes two simple jams. They’re possibly not like jams most people are used to – that is, filled with sugar, no taste and quite thick. These jams are jammed packed with fruit, flavour and far less sugar. The consistency is slightly runny but interrupted with thick chunks of divine fruit. The whole point of this jam is that you taste the fruit NOT the sugar. I make these each year and we spread them on fresh bread and drizzle them on homemade yoghurt, topped with toasted nuts and coconut.
Last year we planted an Apricot and Peach tree in our front yard – I wanted a productive garden not just a useless ornamental one – so this is the first year it’s produced fruit for us…its fruit is wonderful and I picked this plate of deliciousness just yesterday – before the birdies got them!
This recipe is dead simple but the flavours are extraordinary…
I have used this recipe and replaced the apricots or the plums with other fruit and it is just as wonderful. Try a mixed berry or a peach – but always add the fresh vanilla bean.
So here are two recipes:
- Fresh Apricot & Vanilla Bean Jam
- Fresh Plum & Vanilla Bean Jam
[ the recipe ]
- 1.5kg x fruit – apricots or plums (stones removed)
- 600g x castor sugar
- 1 x fresh, soft vanilla bean
[ the method ]
Wash the fruit thoroughly in the sink or colander.
Next in a non reactive bowl – take out the stones and cut the fruit into quarters.
Next add the sugar, mix well and cover. Let the fruit and sugar sit for a minimum of 12 hours. This process draws all of the liquid from the fruit and retains the natural flavours and sugars.
After 12 hours the fruit will have expelled a lot of liquid and it is ready to cook.
Empty the fruit into a large pot. Then take the vanilla bean – slice it open down the centre and scrape the seeds out into the bowl. Cut it in half so you have two pieces and add this to the fruit. Mix well. Bring the fruit slowly to the boil – stirring occasionally.
Froth will gather on the top of the fruit – leave it as it will dissipate. Ensure the fruit is at boiling point and boils for 20 -25 minutes. You will see the consistency of the fruit – become more like jam.
Cook the jam bubbling for 20 – 25 minutes until it becomes a darker colour and is slightly thicker. Just remember the jam will thicken slightly but it is designed to be a lighter, thinner consistency. Using a ladle, pour the jam into sterilised jars and seal the lids.
At the same time I was making the apricot, I also made the Plum Jam…I used the same proportions and method. I was divine!
Once all of the jam has been bottled – place it in the fridge until you use it. Once opened ensure it remains in the fridge. It has no preservatives in it – just the natural kind so its designed to be eaten quickly!!! Well its eaten quickly in our house so I never have to worry!
These jams really do epitomise the flavours of Summer…if you’re anything like me you’ll be sneaking into the fridge to take a teaspoon or three when the mood takes you!
Enjoy your Summer and these jams…
Stay you & stay quirky
Love J x