Tuesday, July 27, 2010

apricot blueberry thyme jam

apricot blueberry thyme jam

I’ve been a bit of a hypocrite. I’ve encouraged you to go to your kitchens unafraid and undeterred, while I have been harboring a few fears of my own. I suppose it’s only natural to be intimidated by something unfamiliar, to be so wholly overwhelmed you don’t even know where to begin. So while you want to try, you never quite get around to it. Fear wins – you lose. It’s a bit silly, if you ask me.

apricot blueberry thyme jam

But what is it we’re really afraid of? What is the worst possible thing that could happen? Your creation is a fail. An epic, larger-than-life, inedible fail. Well, for those moments, when you have burned your dinner, or under-baked a cake, or overworked you pie crust, or produced the saddest, most deflated meringues the world has ever seen – it’s always good to have the makings of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; some heavy cream, a whisk, a chilled bowl and berries; some frozen puff pasty on hand, and a box of your favorite cookies, to remedy the situation. But failure in the kitchen also lends itself to an opportunity to laugh heartily at what went wrong. Last summer, I served the book club ladies the most vile clafoutis known to man. I, thankfully, had another dessert on hand, but it was quite funny – the clafoutis – it looked liked vomit. Another time, I tried to feed them barely edible bread pudding (again, I had another dessert on hand). That second time, I just showed them the finished product and promptly dumped the whole thing in the garbage.

apricot blueberry thyme jam

And aside from the pie crust fear (a fear I successfully conquered) nothing else has given me anxiety like canning and pickling. And now, I can tell you, this bête noire has, largely, been put to rest. I don’t know what it is about canning that used to (used to! see, past tense!) make me so nervous. Maybe it was just the steps: the hot water (painful burns!); the cans themselves (where to get canning jars?); the receptacle that allows you to easily (and safely!) place and remove the jars from the boiling water; the “do-i-boil-the-tops-of-jars” dilemma (yes!); how much space on top do I need to leave before sealing (about a quarter inch!); is pectin necessary (no, just cook to 220 degrees F); and so on and so forth. For some reason, preserving was my boogey man.

apricot blueberry thyme jam

When I mentioned my preserving anxieties to my friend Jennie, she wasted no time and put me in touch with the lovely folks at Ball jars, who promptly sent me a canning “Discovery” kit. The kit came with 3 jars, a basket in which you place your jars, for easier manipulation, and a recipe booklet. And since I now had all the necessary tools to make jam, all I needed to do was actually just make it. I picked up some blueberries at the farmer’s market and found apricots at my local grocer. I hadn’t intended to put them together, but when I laid out my produce on the counter and was putting everything away, the combination struck me as somewhat curious. What I wanted here was something slightly unusual, surprising even. Thyme seemed like a good addition that would highlight the fragrant fruit and offer an herbal note to a nose full of fruit.

cooking the fruit

Jam-making does not require crazy measuring, and it’s pretty difficult to mess up. You chop up your fruit, sampling here and there along the way. You place everything in a nice heavy bottomed pot. You want your pot to be as wide as possible because larger surface area allows your jam to become more jammy faster. The greater the surface area – the more moisture evaporation taking place. Simple physics, really.

sterilizing...

Once the fruit is in, you add your sugar. Personally, I don’t like to overdo it with sugar. You are, after all, making jam – not candy. At the same time – skimp on the sugar and your jam might not set properly. Add your herbs, or vanilla, or whatever that extra element you want. If you just want fruit and sugar, no problem! If you want to add a little lemon juice, that tends to make the fruit sing – go for it! And then, and this is important here, you want to add a pinch or two of salt (depending on how much fruit you’re working with). Once you’ve done all that, turn on the burner, bring the whole mess to a simmer, skim the foamy parts, and let the fruit cook slowly, stirring on occasion. I prefer to bring my fruit to 220 degrees F and not add the pectin.

kitchen set up while jamming

Some fruit, such as the cranberry, has a lot of natural pectin – which explains why your cranberries becomes jelly-like so quickly when you cook them down. Other fruit, like stone fruit, does not have a lot of pectin, so you either cook it to a proper temperature without pectin, or you add pectin, which comes in powder and liquid form. Either way, you are looking for that point in time when you drip a little jam onto a plate and instead of it spreading out in a messy puddle, the drip holds together a bit, bound by that viscosity that forms when you cook fruit and liquid for some time.

my jars!! aren't they pretty?

When that done, you sterilize your jars, making sure they are dry. You sterilize the tops of the jars and the rings too, in case you’re wondering. Then you fill up your jars with the jam, leaving a quarter inch of room on top, place the lids on the jars, and screw on the rings, but not too tight, just enough. After awhile, you should hear a click or a pop, that’s your jars sealing themselves. No sound? Top of the lid still pointing upwards? Press the lid downward gently. If it collapses and doesn’t come up – voila! You have sealed with success. If it pops right back up, you might want to re-sterilize and start the process anew.

someone needs a wide-mouth funnel

So this is what happens when you get so fed up with your fear, you mutter to yourself, to hell with it and just go for it. You wind up with two jars of delicious jam, sitting in your fridge, awaiting their fate. And quite frankly, what would I have done had my jars not sealed themselves properly? I would have gone into my kitchen, taken out the biggest spoon I own, and ate my jam in one sitting just like that – au naturel. If only every kitchen failure tasted as good.

testing for donness

Apricot Blueberry Thyme Jam

Ingredients:
2 lb apricots
1 lb blueberries
3 tbsp thyme leaves
3 cups sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice

Preparation:

Place a small plate in the freezer.

Chop up your apricots and place them in a heavy bottomed pot. Add blueberries, thyme, sugar and lemon juice. Add a couple of tablespoons of water.

Bring the fruit to a slow boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally. At first your fruit will get quite watery, but as it cooks, it will begin to fall apart. Stir occasionally and skim the froth that you see coming to the surface at that first boil.

Cook your jam until the temperature reaches 200 degrees F. At this point, your jam will darken in color (blueberries help!) and deepen in hue. When it leaves a thick coat on the back of the spoon, take that plate out of the freezer and drop a dollop of jam onto the plate. If it runs, try cooking for a few minutes longer and testing again. If it becomes solid, your jam is done.

Meanwhile, bring another large pot of water to a boil and sterilize your jars. When cool, fill your jars with jam, leaving 1/2 inch of space on top. Wipe rim and screw threads with a clean damp cloth. Add lid, screw band and tighten firmly and evenly. Do not over tighten.

Put the sealed jars in the pot with water and keep them covered with at least 1 inch of water and boiling. Boil for about 20 minutes.

Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching, or bumping in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight).

Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid (with a new lid) and reprocess the jar, while it’s still hot for the full time in the canner. Depends on when you want to eat your jam. If it’s for immediate consumption – no need for the whole dog-and-pony show. If it’s for a few months from now – and you plan on maybe giving these as gifts, then you want to make sure the jars seal properly.

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29 Comments

  • 1

    I love making jam! I add a lot more sugar though, I am going to try this recipe with less sugar. Looks very tasty!

    July 27, 2010 3:58 pm
  • 2
    Naomi said:

    Apricots and blueberries are one of my favorite combinations! I’m glad you got over your fear of canning. I’m sad that I’m traveling so much this summer because I can’t put up as many jams as I usually do.

    July 27, 2010 4:04 pm
  • 3
    Adrienne said:

    Oh man, this really does look gorgeous. Though I confess I’ve never boiled the rings, just washed them in hot soapy water.

    Also, DUDE, I have such pot and pan envy right now. I’ve put off buying any kitchen items until after my wedding but that picture of your stove top is making it really dang difficult.

    July 27, 2010 4:13 pm
  • 4

    This couldn’t be more perfect for today…I am facing a pie crust this weekend and the anxiety is already mounting. I am also reading up on jam making in anticipation of making blackberry jam later this summer, and wondering whether all those steps can possibly come together successfully. Your jam is gorgeous and I’m encouraged!

    July 27, 2010 4:18 pm
  • 5
    Whitney said:

    I love making jam! I have a bunch of blueberries in my fridge that I might have to transform later today. Glad you conquered your fear!

    July 27, 2010 4:33 pm
  • 6
    Maddie said:

    I overcame the same fear this summer! And jam-making is become a messy, addictive habit of mine. I’ve got eight jars in my pantry and counting (peach, blueberry, and tomato jams). Can’t wait for raspberry season… :)

    July 27, 2010 4:56 pm
  • 7
    tracy said:

    OOOH!!! I’ve been wanting to can! I also got over my pie crust fear…and perhaps I’ll get over my canning fear too! Love it! The thyme sounds amazing.

    July 27, 2010 7:17 pm
  • 8
    Gabi said:

    I still have not overcome my canning fear. Bravo to you!

    One quick question though: I thought you had to put the jars back into a water bath after they were filled and that is how they seal. Is this a shortcut or something totally different?

    July 27, 2010 8:35 pm
  • 9

    This looks VERY good!

    July 27, 2010 8:38 pm
  • 10
    Jennie said:

    Olga, I’m so glad you have conquered your fear, and dare I say become smitten with preserving? One last tip, if you don’t want to use too much sugar and shy away from packaged pectin products, you can use unripe apples, sometimes called summer apples which are in season right now. They have them at Wilkow Orchards at the borough hall market in Brooklyn on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fishkill Farms also has them, but not as reliably. Unripe apples are very high in pectin, and that’s what I’m currently using in my tomato jam and peach preserves.

    Miss you bunches and hope to see you soon!

    July 28, 2010 7:26 am
  • 11

    I really want to learn to can. I was so tempted by a Ball starter kit at the market (on sale for only $9.99) but I am scared. I think I’m more scared of trying to store the equipment in my teensy tiny city kitchen if I turn out to be a failure at this.

    July 28, 2010 7:57 am
  • 12
    Radish said:

    Carrietracy – worst thing that would happen is your can’t don’t seal and you’re forced to eat your jam afterwards. Punishment, indeed! :) Also, you can use the Bell jars as drinking glasses, vases, whatnot.

    Jennie – smitten, indeed and thanks for the apples tip right now. Btw, can we have a moment about how amazing Fishkill Farms is? I just love those people. Their produce is beyond amazing. Lovely folks too!

    Tracy – do it and I’m here if you have questions – I think you’ll absolutely adore it. And Cooper will too!

    Gabi – I think the finger test is also good to make sure you know? But you’re right – that’s how they’re supposed to seal!

    July 28, 2010 9:03 am
  • 13
    Christine said:

    YUM! My mom used to jar our tomato sauce supply for the year over a weekend in August, but I’ve just started canning on my own, and this is the first year I’ve attempted jam. I made some just on Sunday with some prune plums I picked up. Although I will completely fess up that due to a lack of sugar and not using pectin, it didn’t set properly. But seriously so delicious I didn’t even mind that it is more of a plum sauce then jam. The jar that only made it halfway to full was eaten within a few days, mostly stirred into plain yogurt. Since then I’ve been eying my other jar. :)

    OH! and for anyone who doesn’t have the basket, I have one of those pasta pots with colander. I shamefully throw a couple of pieces of aluminum foil between the jars if they aren’t packed in tight and call it a day.

    July 28, 2010 9:39 am
  • 14

    If you put anything hot into a jar and then put the lid on, it will “seal” when it cools- but this is NOT the same as canning the jam!!! Unless you process your jam in a water bath (which expels the oxygen), you will need to refrigerate it immediately and eat it within a month or so. If you want to keep it in the pantry, you must process it- getting rid of the oxygen is what prevents yucky stuff from growing.

    I have had the same trepidations about jam making and canning, but have recently taken baby steps- refrigerator pickles and jams such as this. Just made some tart cherry jam last night! Next step will be to actually learn canning itself (i.e., processing things in a water bath to keep long term).

    July 28, 2010 10:32 am
  • 15
    Christine said:

    The bottles are so nice. I wish we have apricots here in our country…and blueberries. I love your blogs! If you wont mind I’d love to guide Foodista readers to your post. Just add the foodista widget to the end of this post so it will appear in the Foodista pages and it’s all set, Thanks!

    July 28, 2010 2:10 pm
  • 16
    Janae said:

    Thank you for this post. I have been terrified of making jam for years (for the same reasons you described). Twice in the past few days I’ve had random conversations with strangers, both who assured me that it’s a breeze, but this post has completely convinced me — thanks! I can’t wait to try.

    July 28, 2010 4:57 pm
  • 17

    Gosh who would ever think you’re a canning noob?! That gorgeous, intense colour you’ve got has kept me gaping at my screen. I’d love some of it, especially because I love blueberries and unfortunately, they don’t grow here :(

    July 29, 2010 5:34 am
  • 18

    Oh, wow! This looks incredible. A couple years ago I discovered how amazing herbs are when combined with the right fruits (cantaloupe-basil sorbet!), and an apricot-blueberry-thyme combo sounds delightful. What a gorgeous color!

    August 2, 2010 12:51 pm
  • 19
    Allison said:

    This summer I too have gotten over my fear of canning! It’s definitely not as scary as I had thought, and I have been canning and preserving like crazy! Thanks for the tips!

    August 2, 2010 4:11 pm
  • 20
    Dana said:

    Mmmm! I love the idea of thyme in the jam!

    I generally don’t have a fear of canning, but that’s because I’ve only ever canned with my Baba, who has decades of experience. On my own, I’m pretty sure some nerves would be involved.

    August 3, 2010 10:27 am
  • 21

    The flavors in this jam sound spectacular. And I have to say…I admire the photos you’ve done here. Personally, I get a little amped up and stressed with canning (intense stirring over intense heat can do that to a person!) so I’m impressed that you took the time to chronicle the process so beautifully. Looking forward to trying!

    August 9, 2010 2:04 am
  • 22

    [...] Anything to keep me from turning on the stove or the oven. I do break down sometimes, in an attempt to conquer fear, or bring the summer barbecue inside my tiny apartment, but if I can get away with not raising the [...]

    August 16, 2010 11:05 am
  • 23
    Debbie Johnson said:

    I am keeping your recipe and putting it aside until next year. But what I would like to know is did that plastic small-batch canning rack melt when you used it? Did you use it for the water bath processing? I want one but there are a couple of bad reviews of it on amazon. Please let me know

    August 21, 2010 2:42 pm
  • 24
    Radish said:

    Debbie – mine didn’t melt and it was all good. I wonder if folks had their heat on too high? Shouldn’t be happening still. Either way it’s a good way to get started. You can always put a towel at the bottom of the pot, where the water is boiling.

    August 23, 2010 8:24 am
  • 25

    [...] apple cobbler – I’m not so much in the mood for it in the summer months. I want berries and stone fruit and pies. But as soon as I feel that fall chill in the air, and reach for hot coffee, I know that [...]

    November 2, 2010 3:37 pm
  • 26

    [...] More Jam on Sassy Radish: Apricot Blueberry Thyme Jam [...]

    July 21, 2011 7:01 am
  • 27
    Corey said:

    I just made your jam but instead of thyme i put some fresh ginger to steep the fruit in and a small palm full of basil… sounds crazy but its crazy delicious…

    June 15, 2012 6:55 pm
  • 28
    Kate said:

    Olga, you inspired me to try jam making and I’m addicted. I love this recipe, but apricots seem to be winding down here in the midwest. I would think that nectarines would be ok, what do you think? Love the peach with pepper too! You do such beautiful work!

    August 26, 2012 4:50 pm
  • 29
    Radish said:

    Kate – thank you for your kind words. yes nectarines should work, but i find them to have a higher water content than apricots and so will might need longer to cook down. Jam making is such an art form – that no matter how many instructions you make, most of it you have to do by feel, you know? So let me know how it comes out – it sounds delicious.

    August 27, 2012 10:45 am

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