- Author: Jennifer Codron, UC Master Food Preserver
- Editor: Shannon A Klisch, Academic Coordinator II
- Editor: Maria E Murietta, Master Food Preserver Program Coordinator
It's that time of year again! The dominant variety of apricots, Blenheim, that have a short season here on the Central Coast, have arrived. I used to have a Royal apricot tree in my yard and made delicious jam every year. Unfortunately, it contracted a fungal disease and slowly lost its limbs one by one which ended my annual tradition of making jam.
Last year, I wanted to bring this jam making tradition back so now I purchase my Blenheim apricots from my local farmer's market. The farmers there have been growing apricots for years and they have some of the tastiest ones around.
First, gather your ingredients and canning supplies. This recipe makes about nine 8-ounce jars and you will need 8 cups chopped and pitted apricots, 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 6 cups granulated sugar. Make sure your cooking space is clean and wash your hands.
I decided on a simple no-pectin recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (2006) so the pure delicious flavor of the apricots could shine through.
I like to listen to music while I jam, mostly bluegrass, but any music will enhance your experience and help pass the long minutes of stirring the pot when you choose the long boil, no pectin method.
I washed and dried and chopped the apricots, removing any blemishes and getting rid of any damaged pieces. You want a mix of about ¾ ripe to ¼ under-ripe apricots since the latter contain more natural pectin to help the jam set. Prepare fruit in small batches, just enough for one recipe for best results. For my second batch, I chopped the apricots in smaller pieces and ended up with more fruit in my recipe.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon juice and the apricots. I let this mixture sit for about a half hour as the fruit begins to release its juices and starts to form a syrup. This helps prevent sticking as you heat the mixture over medium heat.
Add 6 cups of granulated sugar.
Add 4 Tablespoons of lemon juice. The juice needs to be from a bottle purchased at the store. This is a guarantee that the juice will have the right pH, at least 4.5 percent acidity whereas freshly picked lemons can vary in their pH.
Add the 8 cups of chopped apricots. Although the recipe calls for peeling the apricots, I leave the skins on and end up with a smooth jam.
Stir the pot occasionally to help the sugar dissolve and keep the mixture from sticking. Once the mixture has broken down and begins to thicken you need to stir constantly as it boils. This is where your favorite music or a good podcast comes into play.
I decided to use the temperature test since it is the most accurate way to see if the gel stage of the jam has been reached (Ball Book, 2006, pg. 21). After cooking for an hour, the jam reached only 210 degrees, so I decided to try the sheet test with a spoon that had been in the freezer for several minutes. The jam came off the spoon in sheets, so I decided to ladle into the hot jars. The second batch of jam did reach 220 degrees after only about 45 minutes as I boiled this one a little harder. Interestingly, the first batch which was cooked longer turned a darker shade of orange while the second batch was brighter.
Spoon or sheet test: Dip a cool metal spoon into the boiling jam. Lift the spoon up and out of the steam so it starts to fall off the spoon. If the jam forms light and syrupy drips, keep boiling. If the jam comes off in one sheet, the jam is ready to place into hot jars.
Ladle the hot jam into half-pint jars leaving a ¼ inch headspace. Use a debubbler or chopstick to release any air bubbles that may have formed.
This jam is very sticky so make sure the rim is wiped clean with a damp paper towel before placing the lid on the jar.
Place the lids on the rims and screw on the bands just until fingertip tight.
Set filled jars onto a canning rack and submerge into a water bath canner with 2-3 inches of water covering the tops of the jars. Bring to a full rolling boil and process for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn off heat, remove the lid and let the jars stand in the canner for 5 minutes before removing the jars to a clean towel on your counter. Be sure not to tip the jars as you are removing them as the mixture could bubble under the lid and cause the lids not to seal properly.
Let the jars stand 24 hours before checking that they are sealed properly. Place any unsealed jars into the refrigerator immediately. Store jars in a cool dark location after removing the bands. By removing the bands, you will be able to notice if at any time during storage the lids become unsealed and thus not edible.
To remove water stains on lids before marking the type and date of jam, take a cloth dipped in vinegar and wipe the lid.
In the second batch I made, I placed one cinnamon stick to add a little flavor. You can also add a vanilla bean or the apricot kernels in a stainless-steel tea strainer to compliment the flavor of the apricots. You can safely add up to 1 teaspoon of flavoring or herb to a jam or jelly recipe.
Because the Blenheim apricot season is so short, making jam is a great way to savor this flavor year-round and your friends will be happy when you bring over a jar of this delicious fruit. Enjoy!
Apricot Jam Recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving copyright 2006, page 22.
- Author: Lynn Pastusak, MFP Volunteer
- Editor: Shannon Klisch
If you have a garden or compost bin, you probably have plant volunteers. What is a plant volunteer? Any type of plant that grows somewhere you did not intentionally plant it. That's what happened to Master Food Preserver, Lynn Pastusak. Below, Lynn walks us through how she preserved her unexpected harvest so it wouldn't go to waste.
Dehydrating is one of the oldest forms of food preservation and is very easy to do.
Dehydration (drying) pulls out enough water from food to prevent spoilage.
While it is possible to sun dry some foods or even use your oven as a dehydrator, the simplest and most fool-proof method is to use an electric dehydrator. If you don't already have one, I recommend getting one. They are relatively inexpensive, starting around $40 for a simple but reliable model, and they can save you time and money if you plan to start dehydrating on a regular basis. Look for one that has a temperature control setting between 130° and 150° (mine is from 105° to 165°), a fan to circulate warm air evenly, and trays that are easy to load and clean.
The steps for dehydrating cherry tomatoes are easy.
- Wash your hands and clean all your utensils and trays.
- Preheat the dehydrator to 140°F.
- Rinse the tomatoes and remove the stems.
- Cut tomatoes in half.
- Place tomatoes skin side down on a dehydrator tray. If you would like, you can sprinkle a little salt on them.
- Dry for 5-9 hours. Times may vary depending on the humidity and heat in your area.
- After about 4 hours, start checking them regularly. They are done when they are leathery or brittle. If you want to grind them to make a powder, you'll want them crispy.
Tips from Lynn:
Proper storage is critical to keep tomatoes from re-hydrating and molding. A few options I have used: 1) Vacuum seal them and store them in the freezer, 2) seal them in freezer bags, put the bags in tightly sealed jars, and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer. As long as they are in an air-tight container, they can also be stored at cool to room temperature in a dark location - like a closet. For best quality, use them within 1 year.
What to do with your dried tomatoes:
They are tasty to eat alone as a snack. They can also be added to soups, salads, pastas, sauces, and casseroles. If dried crisp, they can be ground in a food processor or blender and used in recipes like you would use tomato paste. Yum!