If you follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Cook.Can.Read?ref=hl) you may know that I was lucky to have the chance to buy a case of beautiful apricots from a family in central Washington; last Friday, they brought a laden truck across the mountains to us grateful city folk. The apricots were practically perfect: few blemishes, no bruises, a good mix of ripe and almost-ripe. As I go through the case, I have only lost one whole apricot to rot and have barely had to cut any of the others. I am over the moon happy with this purchase and hope to have the chance to buy from Dru and Loni again.
I vowed this year not to go crazy with bulk fruit buys– I am still upset with myself for buying a case of peaches last summer during a hot, hot week when I was so busy I couldn’t take care of them fast enough. I probably lost as many of them as I used– heartbreaking, and wasteful. This spring I evaluated what I wanted to make, jam-wise and otherwise, and prioritized that list; unsurprisingly, apricots were near the top. I love apricots plain, love them for breakfast with yogurt and honey, a handful of pistachios tossed on top when I’m feeling decadent, and I adore apricot jam. I love the color, how easy apricots are to work with (I made an entire batch of jam without once picking up a knife, pulling apart the blemish-free fruit by hand) and how well apricots are suited as a base layer for other flavors. With this case of fruit, besides the dozens I ate plain and the 5+ lbs. I dehydrated, I have made apricot vanilla jam, an apricot-almond skillet cake, apricot orange blossom jam and this, my favorite so far, apricot habanero jam.
I mentioned how happy I was with this jam to a neighbor and she corrected me: “Oh, you must mean apricot salsa.” But it’s not salsa, not barbecue sauce, and though it could be used as a glaze for pork or chicken, this kicky jam will grace many an English muffin or scone this winter. Spicy does not necessarily mean savory, and this batch is the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. I only used one habanero, not enough to overpower the delicate apricots, but there is a distinct heat from this jam that I love. It is zingy. It is tantalizing. I think I am most happy with it because I hit the ideal balance by accident, expecting to have several rounds of trial and error before getting it spicy enough, or not too hot. Habaneros are often described as “fruity”, and though I never quite understood that before, I think I get it now. They are very well-suited as a companion to stone fruit. My mind is racing with ideas about blueberry habanero ketchup, peach habanero salsa, and more.
If you are looking for something new and exciting to try, this may be the jam for you. It makes a small batch, just about 5 half-pints, and is one of the easiest jams to make, thanks to our friend the apricot. I plan to use it in lieu of pepper jelly with some goat cheese and seedy crackers. Beyond that, I can picture how nice it will be to have a taste of summer fruit, with a fun kick, on my toast on a cold winter morning.
Apricot Habanero Jam (inspired by Food in Jars)
- 4 c. apricots, diced (no need to remove peels)
- 2 c. organic cane sugar
- 1 habanero pepper, seeded and minced
- juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 c.)
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Day 1: Place the apricots, 1 c. sugar and habanero in a glass or ceramic bowl. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least overnight and up to 2 days.
Day 2: Start a water bath and sterilize your jars and lids. Into a jam pan, Dutch oven or equivalent, transfer the apricot mixture, juice and any undissolved sugar; add the remaining cup of sugar, lemon juice and salt. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil over medium-high heat; cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the jam boils down and thickens. With apricots, I prefer a looser set jam, almost like a sauce, so I stop cooking mine when the jam thickens enough to fall in sheets from the side of a spoon. If you’d like to add pectin to make a thicker, more set jam, there are some helpful tips on the Pomona’s pectin website, as well as in the insert found in each box of Pomona’s.
When you reach your desired set point, ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars; wipe the rims of each jar carefully and affix the lids. Process the jars in a water bath for 10 mins.; remove to a clear, towel-lined counter and allow to sit untouched overnight. Check that each jar is sealed; refrigerate unsealed jars immediately. Properly sealed jars will keep in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a year.