Making apricot jam fun and tasty for kids

Tom shows off the jam he helped make. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Baird)

Tom shows off the jam he helped make. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Baird)

ELIZABETH BAIRD, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:19 PM ET

Over the weekend, I was lucky to have visitors—niece Julia Howells with her sons Tom 13, and Eric 11, — from their home in Plainville, Massachusetts. They arrived just in time to learn the ins and outs of making apricot jam, their favourite topping for scones.

Apricot Jam

Unlike commercial apricot jams, this has a soft set, like a French preserve. Great on ice cream and yogurt.

Ingredients:

  • 10 cups (2.5 L) halved, stoned apricots
  • (3 lb/1.5 kg) 1-1/2 cups (375 ml) water
  • 1 lemon, scrubbed and rinsed
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) granulated sugar

Directions:

Measure apricots and water into large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Cut strips of peel from lemon; add to pot. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until apricots are just tender, about 5 minutes. Squeeze juice from lemon; add to apricot mixture. Add sugar in steady stream, stirring constantly. Bring to full boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard, stirring constantly, until preserve thickens and sets, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat; stir for 5 minutes. Skim off any foam; remove lemon strips. Pour into hot preserving jars, leaving 1/4-inch (5mm) headspace. Centre warmed lids on jars. Seal with rings tightened just until fingertip-tight. Boil jars in covered boiling water canner 10 minutes. Uncover; let boiling subside. Transfer jars to rack. After 24 hours, check seals; refrigerate any unsealed jars and consume within 3 weeks. Makes about seven 8-oz.(250 ml) jars.

Peach and Apricot Chutney

This golden chutney is good with grilled pork or chicken, and a great snack with Brie and crackers. No fresh apricots? Use pears, nectarines or more peaches.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (1 L) sliced, peeled pitted peaches
  • 4 cups (1 L) sliced pitted apricots
  • 2 cups (500 ml) diced onions
  • 3 cups (750 ml) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups (500 ml) golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 tsp. (7 ml) brown or yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp. (7 ml) coarse salt (sea, kosher or pickling)
  • 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) each ground cinnamon, coriander, cumin and turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. (1 ml) ground cardamom or additional cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. (1 ml) cayenne
  • 2 cups (500 ml) apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in order listed above in large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered, until no longer watery and rich golden, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Stir often, especially as chutney thickens. Pour into hot preserving jars, leaving 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) headspace. Centre warmed lids on jars. Seal with rings tightened just until fingertip-tight. Boil jars in covered boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Uncover; let boiling subside. Transfer jars to rack. After 24 hours, check seals; refrigerate any unsealed jars and consume within 3 weeks. Makes about eight 8-oz.(250 ml) jars.

Old-Fashioned Peach and Orange Conserve

In my Aunt Bessie’s recipe collection, this spread was called “Heavenly Jam”. Try it, and you’ll know why.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium navel oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • 8 cups (2 L) coarsely chopped peeled, pitted peaches (4 lb/2 kg)
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) quartered maraschino cherries, optional

Directions:

Scrub oranges and lemon; rinse. Cut out stem ends, and any blemishes. Cut oranges in half lengthwise; place cut-side down on board. Cut each half lengthwise; slice across as thinly as possible to make quarter circles. Thinly pare off the outer yellow rind from lemon; cut into narrow strips. Squeeze lemon, reserving juice; discard both lemon and orange seeds. Place oranges, lemon rind and water in small saucepan; cover and simmer very gently until the peel is mushy, about 30 to 40 minutes, adding water if needed.

In large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven combine orange mixture with peaches, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring often, until thickened and almost set, about 55 minutes. Stir in cherries, if using; cook until set, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat; skim off any foam. Pour into hot preserving jars, leaving 1/4-inch (5 mm) headspace. Centre warmed lids on jars. Seal with rings tightened just until fingertip-tight. Boil jars in covered boiling water canner 10 minutes. Uncover; let boiling subside. Transfer jars to rack. After 24 hours, check seals; refrigerate any unsealed jars and consume within 3 weeks. Makes about twelve 8-oz.(250 ml) jars.

To Test for Setting Point: Place 2 small plates in freezer. To test, remove preserve from heat; dribble small pool of preserve onto cold plate. Let cool 1 minute. Run end of a fork through preserve. If surface wrinkles, preserve is ready. If not, return preserve to heat, and plate to freezer. Test again until set is reached, always using colder plate.

PRESERVING TIPS:

* buy jars specifically designed for preserving. stock up on preserving jar lids as a new one is needed each time a preserving jar is used. Wash and air-dry jars.

* a large blue boiling water canner or pot equipped with rack is ideal for heating jars before filling, and boiling filled jars to ensure safe storage. before boiling marmalade, fill canner about two-thirds with water. add jars, cover and heat to steaming.

* Warm lids in hot water for 5 minutes before sealing jars. Check that bands are clean, unbent and rust-free.

* To fill jars, remove from hot water; set upright on tray. Fill, ideally using wide funnel and 1/2 cup (125 ml) metal measuring cup. Leave recommended headspace.

* Centre lid on each jar; screw on band until resistance is met, tighten without straining.

* Lower filled jars into steaming water in canner; add enough boiling water to cover jars by at least 1 inch (2.5 cm). Cover, bring to boil; time boiling from this point.

* Turn off heat; uncover and transfer jars to rack to cool.

* If lid of any jar (and this is extremely rare if new lids and preserving jars are used) does not snap down, refrigerate jar and use contents within 3 weeks.


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