Americans who visit France are often surprised to wake up in the morning and find themselves with a few pieces of baguette or a single croissant for breakfast. Those are in contrast to our breakfasts, which can be groaning-board sized, featuring some (or all) of the following: Eggs, sausages, pancakes, bacon, oatmeal, cereal, toast, orange juice, and waffles. Don’t get me wrong, I love big breakfasts sometimes, but more often than not, I have coffee, juice, and toast with good butter and jam.
Tartines are the popular breakfast in France, a word which comes from the verb tartiner—”to spread.” So along with the basket of bread offered, there’ll be lots of butter and generally some sort of confiture (jam or jelly) in a pot alongside.
I rarely buy jam since it’s something I like making so much. And with all the great summer fruits available, it’s something I’m happy to do – and make enough for the rest of the year.
The flavor of jam that gets French people most excited is homemade apricot jam. Thankfully, fresh apricots are plentiful and inexpensive in the summer. Apricot jam is incredibly easy to make and the tartness provides a fruity tang which is a rather pleasant thing to wake up to in the morning.
My other unofficial survey has shown that the French prefer single-flavored jams, rather than mixed with all sorts of ingredients and spices, so I resist adding other fruits or berries to it.
I should note that I like my jam on the tart side. The amount of sugar shown is based on how much apricot puree I got from this particular batch of apricots. Because fruit doesn’t grow in standardized quantities (at least the fruit I want to eat) my general rule is to use three-quarters of the amount of sugar per one-part apricot puree. So if you use more, or less, apricots, simply use for each cup of puree, by volume, three-quarters cup of sugar.
Apricots become quite tangy once cooked, so you’ll find this is not very sweet. I don’t recommend using less sugar, since it may not jell correctly. A bit of lemon juice added at the end provides additional balance, and Europeans often crack a few apricot kernels open and add one to each jar before pouring in the jam, which isn’t meant to be eaten, but gives the jam a subtle, bitter almond-like flavor.
- 2 1/4 pounds (1kg) fresh apricots
- 1/4 cup (60ml) water
- 3 cups (600g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- optional: 1 teaspoon kirsch
1. Cut the apricots in half and extract the pits. If you wish, crack a few open and put a kernel in each jam jar you plan to fill.
2. Place the apricots in a stockpot or Dutch oven, and add the water. Cover the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until the apricots are tender and cooked through.
3. Put a small plate in the freezer.
4. Add the sugar to the apricots and cook, uncovered, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. As the mixture thickens and reduces, stir frequently to make sure the jam isn’t burning on the bottom.
5. When the jam looks thick and is looks slightly-jelled, turn off the heat and put a small amount of jam on the chilled plate. Put back in the freezer for a few minutes, then do the nudge test: If the jam mounds and wrinkles (as shown in the photo), it’s done. If not, continue to cook, then re-test the jam until it reaches that consistency.
(You can use a candy thermometer if you wish. The finished jam will be about 220ºF, 104ºC.)
6. Once done, stir in the lemon juice and kirsch, if using, and ladle the jam into clean jars. Cover tightly and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, refrigerate until ready to use.
Storage: I find this jam will keep up to one year if refrigerated. If you wish to can it for long-term preservation, you can refer to the USDA Canning Guidelines for techniques.
Related Links, Posts, and Recipes
Pomegranate Jam (Café Fernando)
Apricot Riesling Jam (Simply Recipes)
Low-Sugar Raspberry Jam (Simply Recipes)
How do I Jam and Jelly? (National Center for Home Food Preservation)