14 July 2015

Apricot jam

Mrs Room for a Radish and I recently took a road trip round North West France. France is well known for its strong culinary traditions. What I like most about the food culture in France is not so much the restaurants, but the quality of raw ingredients on offer. What particularly excites me is the markets. Even a small town will have a market once a week, and larger towns several. Often there will be stall after stall piled high with fruit and veg. Some specialising in onions and garlic, or salads, or maybe a fishmonger or two, a cheese stall, a charcuterie stall. The range and quality of produce is often high, and the prices reasonable. Canny old French ladies flit from stall to stall, comparing produce before deciding on what’s the best value for money.

At the end of our holiday we found a lovely market in Angers. The timing of our holiday coincided – and not by accident I have to admit – with the French apricot harvest. I love a good apricot, but often struggle to find good quality ones in the UK. Both of us are big fans of apricot jam, and, being keen jam-makers, decided to buy a load of apricots to make jam once we got home. Several of the stalls were offering 5kg boxes of apricots, specifically for jam, and we saw quite a few French people, who had obviously had the same idea as us, wandering off with boxes of the things. We wandered about for a bit, attempting to look discerning, comparing the fruit on offer at different stalls. Having thought that a couple of kilos would do, we rapidly talked ourselves into buying a 5kg box - after all, who knew when we would next find ourselves at a market in France during apricot season? We bought a whole box for a bargain €9.50.

Apricot jam has a wonderful concentrated apricot flavour and smell, and a great orange colour. It is a very popular jam in France. As well as being perfect on a piece of croissant, it is commonly used in pastry work as a glaze. The day after we got home we made the jam. After all, what better way to spend a hot summer’s afternoon than sweating over two huge stewpans boiling up fruit and sugar. I also kept some fruit for making an apricot tart. After sorting through the rest, throwing out the few that didn’t survive the journey in the boot of the car, we had a good 3kg of stoned fruit. We made enough jam to fill 20 half-pound jam jars. I have halved the amounts in the recipe, which should provide a more realistic and manageable amount.

Apricot jam recipe


1.5kg stoned apricots (from about 2kg whole fruit)
1.5kg granulated sugar
45ml lemon juice
300ml water


The largest pan you have – a 28cm stewpan is ideal
A jam funnel
A metal ladle
5-6 1lb/450g jam jars plus lids
Waxed discs to fit the jars


Before you start, place a couple of saucers or side plates in the freezer. You will need these later to test that the jam has set.

Start by halving and stoning the apricots. Discard any that are bad, and cut out any large areas of bruising. For anyone used to making plum or damson jam, apricot stones are surprisingly easy to remove from the fruit.

Place the apricots in a large bowl, and sprinkle the lemon juice over them. Set aside for an hour or so.

Four things are required to make jam set: sugar, pectin, acid and heat. Pectin is contained to a greater or lesser extent in many fruits. By heating the sugar and fruit to a sufficiently high temperature, the pectin molecules bond together, trapping any water in the mixture and forming the characteristic viscosity of jam. A slightly acidic environment is required to enable this to happen. If a fruit is low in either pectin or acid, these are added in to enable a set to be achieved. Apricots contain a reasonable level of pectin, but only low levels of acid, hence the addition of the citric acid in the form of lemon juice. By setting aside the fruit and lemon juice for a while, the citric acid is absorbed into the fruit, aiding set.

Sterilise the jam jars, ladle and jam funnel. I do this by washing them thoroughly, then placing them in a cool oven. Heat the oven to 140C, leave for 10 minutes then turn the heat off, leaving the jars to cool in the oven.

After the fruit has sat for a while, put in into the largest pan and add the water. When jam boils it increases hugely in volume, so the bigger the pan the better (within reason!) Bring the pan to a simmer, and allow the fruit to soften for a couple of minutes.

Add the sugar, and simmer for several minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sugar has fully dissolved.

Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the gas and bring the pan to a rolling boil. As the mixture comes to the boil, give it a good stir with a wooden spoon to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Once the mixture has come to a full rolling boil, allow it to boil for 20 minutes. Avoid the temptation to stir.

After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and give the jam a stir. Take a saucer out of the freezer and dollop on a small piece of jam. Allow to cool for 30 second or so, then try pushing your finger through the jam. If it has set, the jam should ruck up and crinkle as you push through it. This is known as the ‘crinkle test’. There are a number of ways of testing if jam is set, but I find the crinkle test the most reliable.

If the jam isn’t set, bring it back to the boil and boil for another five minutes before testing again.

Once the jam has reached setting point, allow it to sit for five to ten minutes, then pour into the jars. Place a waxed disc on top of the jam, then screw on the lids.

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