Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Blushing Maiden of Summer: Apricot-Lavender Jam


There's little more sensuous than summer stone fruits. Take the cherry, dripping with ruby juices - how many double entendres can you think of of using that small pitted orb? The peach is a brash redhead with its luxurious fuzz; the nectarine, only a slightly tamer and more refined cousin. We mustn't forget the plum, a little tart with brightly covered vestments.

But what about the apricot, the blushing maiden of summer? We've never quite developed the same level of desire for it. Perhaps, it's our lack of knowledge about of the little fruit - many years it barely appears at the market, hiding behind more showy relations. Others, it does but proves to be a terrible disappointment, fibrous and flavorless. What a delight then it is to have a year like this. Easily freed from its stone, this year's apricot is the color of a Caribbean sunset melting into a red brick building. The flesh is firm, yet tender, perfect for preserving.

The apricot may make only one more appearance at our markets and therefore my suggestion is to run, not walk, to yours to find even a small box. Once you do, run, not walk, back home to capture its maidenhood in your canning jars.

Apricot-Lavender Jam
1 1/2 pints

3 cups peeled, sliced apricots
2 cups granulated sugar
1 sprig lavender

Mix together the ingredients in a medium, non-reactive bowl. Cover and let sit overnight. Scrape the mix into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, mashing the slices to a pulp. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the jam drops in large gobs from the spoon and the apricots have broken down. Remove the lavender sprig and pour into hot, sterilized jars. Process for 5 minutes in a hot water bath. Remove the jars from the bath and cool on a clean towel without touching. Check the seal and then store in a cool, dark location.

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