Getting into a jam
Looking for a nice little Airbnb guest giveaway? Make them some jam! They can eat in or take away as a delicious memento of their stay. Attach a card that reminds them of your name, location & Airbnb listing number so they can pass it on to potential guests.
Apricots are in season here in Melbourne Australia at this time of year and one of my neighbours has a tree that is exploding with fruit. Time to raid the tree!
Nobody appreciates free food like migrants, and my German family never wasted a thing from our edible garden. We had 4 different varieties of plums, apricots, almonds and apples (which always seemed to be wormy), not to mention the veggie patch.
My childhood was spent pillaging the family fruit trees. We had epic battles with the windfall, pelting the neighbours' kids over the fence. Our Plums of Wrath were met with the Apricots of Retribution in tit for tat wars that went on all summer long. Happy days (but not for our long-suffering mothers who had to deal with the laundry!).
Then there were the mushroom-foraging expeditions which are the stuff of legends in my family. Our Aussie neighbours were always horrified at the large variety of mushrooms we fearlessly fried up, and were oddly reluctant to join us for those feasts. To them, if it wasn't a store-bought champignon, it was poisonous.
Then there was our appetite for carp, which in Germany is the most expensive eating fish, reserved for New Year and special occasions. Our grandmother thought she had died & gone to heaven when she saw the crazy Aussies throwing them up on the riverbanks and leaving them to rot. Our neighbours swore they were poisonous (they were a fearful lot!). Against all the odds, we survived our childhood despite our dodgy eating habits.
My mother Helga was a fantastic cook. She was Nigella before Nigella was even born. If she had had the necessary attributes (potty-mouthed home-wrecker) she could have really gone places, but she was a peace-loving genteel soul, so she was only a culinary legend to her family & friends.
Her favourite reference was the Dr Oetker school cook-book which my sister still treasures. She could have written her own books: "Slaw & Peace", "50 Shades of Kugelhupf", "How Green Was My Parsley", "A Tale of Two Strudels", but she didn't, so all I have is memories of my culinary apprenticeship and happy hours being a kid in the kitchen.
So I'm channeling my mama when I present these recipes to you. I call this jam, but it is more versatile than that. It also makes an awesome topping for ice-cream & panna cotta, and is delicious served with cheese on a platter, or stir in some balsamico to create a sweet & savoury relish for meats.
Start with a basic apricot jam recipe. Here's mine:
2 kilos of apricots (weighed whole). Stone them and cut into 1.5cm pieces
6 cups of sugar
4 tablespoons of lemon juice
Rind of one lemon or orange, depending on flavours you are using
2 cups of water
Use a large pot or deep baking pan on the stove-top.
Add fruit, water & rind, bring to boil and simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes
Reduce heat, add sugar and stir over low heat until sugar is melted.
Then turn up the heat and boil slowly for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pot.
Boil the kettle, fill jars with boiling water.
Submerge jar lids in a bowl of boiling water.
Once jam has finished cooking, take one jar at a time, empty the boiled water, fill hot jar with hot jam, screw lid on and upend it to create a vacuum. Leave it until the jar cools.
Once bottled, the jam may need to sit for a few days to thicken. If it's looking like it's not going to set, add some Jam-Setta before bottling.
I can never resist mixing it up a bit, and nothing improves food like adding alcohol! Here are my 2 variations on this basic recipe:
APRICOT, RUM & RAISIN JAM
Replace some of the 2kg of apricots with raisins
Replace some of the 2 cups of water with rum (not all of it!). Try 1/2 cup, and add it towards the end of cooking so that the alcohol does't all cook off.
This will result in a darker, treacle-coloured jam.
APRICOT, GINGER & COINTREAU JAM
Replace some of the 2kg of apricots with unchrystalised ginger
Replace some of the 2 cups of water with Cointreau (not all of it!). Try 1/2 cup, and add it towards the end of cooking so that the alcohol does't all cook off.
This will result in a gloriously golden coloured jam with a warm zing from the ginger.
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