Apricots for Days and Days
By Chef Deb Traylor
In a previous post I mentioned I received fifteen pounds of apricots as a gift. On it’s own it was a wonderful score, but it had us thinking about all the things we could do to use up every bit of the fruit. We made apricot tarts and pico de gallo and then we used up the rest in spoon jam and made homemade almond extract using the little kernels within all those apricot pits.
I've spent a few days racking my brain and Googling like a crazed research assistant on deadline trying to figure out why I began calling this particular recipe a "spoon jam."
There is a chance I read a recipe somewhere, but the best I can come up with is I was attempting to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace for the 8th time (notice the word “attempt”?). In one of the chapters the young women are sweetening their tea with jam. The narrative was that they were spooning the jam into their tea with no concern of cost or modesty at a time when sweets were very expensive.
During my Tolstoy struggle, I was also trying to make a very quick jam for the Boulder County Farmer’s Market without using pectin or going so far as to actually process the jam for canning. Of course the juicy fruit failed to fully thicken and we had to use a spoon to get the jam out of the jar. Voilà, spoon jam!
I guess officially it can be called “not-quite-jam,” but “spoon jam” sounds more like something Russian ladies would use to sweeten their tea. So from here on out, spoon jam is the slightly syrupy jam we make that would not survive a trip to your biscuit on a paltry knife!
A toast, my friends… to spoon jam and Tolstoy!
A few notes:
- I prefer to make my desserts, jams and pastries on the less sweet side. I like just a whisper of sweetness so the other ingredients can be heard. But if more sugar makes your heart sing, then stand tall and add more, more, more. We won’t judge, I promise.
- This jam is not canned but it will last at least 30 days in your fridge or you can freeze it for 2-3 months in freezer safe containers.
- Sometimes I like to add a teaspoon or two of rosewater at the end. Or in the beginning, add a single vanilla bean or a few buds of lavender, or 1 or 2 apricot kernels (see below) to add a little more interest.
Apricot Spoon Jam
Yield: 2 (8 oz) jars, plus a little extra
- 2 to 2 1/4 lbs. of fresh apricots, cut in half (save the pits for another use. See Noyaux recipe below)
- 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups sugar
- juice of 1 lemon, about 2 Tbsp.
Combine apricot halves and 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a large bowl and let set at room temperature for an hour or two, or refrigerate overnight. When ready to cook, pour the apricot mixture, lemon juice and the other 1/2 cup to 1 cup sugar (and any additional optional flavorings) in a medium stock pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir the mixture completely then return to low heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Be sure to stir often and scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and pour into clean glass jars with sealable lids. Cool completely and store in refrigerator for up to 30 days.
Homemade Almond Extract (Noyaux)
What do you do when you’re in “the pits”? Apricot pits to be more specific? Well, here at Ginger and Baker, we make Noyaux! It’s an almond extract made with toasted apricot pits (peach and/or cherry pits work too!)
While making all of our apricot recipes, we set aside the pits and put them in the freezer until we had time to process them (and to find someone to take an afternoon to harvest the kernels inside each pit. Cough, cough…isn’t that what children are for?).
You will need some advance planning as the extract takes anywhere from 1-3 months to fully mature. It’s a fun hostess or housewarming gift during the holidays and yet another way to extend the bounty of summer.
A few notes:
- Freeze the pits until you have enough to make your extract.
- Easiest way to break the pits to extract the kernel is to place the seeds between two tea towels on a hard surface and hit them with a hammer or the flat side of a meat mallet. It’s okay if they don’t stay whole.
- Apricot kernels are known for containing amygdalin, which can be toxic if consumed in large quantities. However, roasting kernels for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees will destroy the harmful enzyme. The kernels can also be boiled in water for 20 minutes and remove the water-soluble compound. I prefer the roasted method.
- Aside from destroying the amygdalin, the roasting process gives the kernels a crisp texture and toasty flavor reminiscent of sweet almonds.
- At Ginger and Baker we’ve been known to add a toasted apricot kernel or two to the pot while making our Apricot Spoon Jam. Be sure to remove them before canning as the flavor will overpower the fruit.
- If you have small children, I would recommend using extra care when making this recipe so toddlers do not mistake these kernels for almonds.
Noyaux (Almond Extract)
- 30-40 apricot kernels, toasted (see above notes)
- 2 cups vodka or brandy
Break open apricot pits, remove the apricot kernels and roast for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool. Place kernels and liquor in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and leave it in a cool dark place. Be sure to shake the contents of the jar every few days for the next month. Check the aroma of the extract after 30 days or you can leave it for the full 90 days. Strain the extract and bottle and label. It’s now ready to give as a gift!
When using this extract, start with only 1/4 teaspoon per recipe as the flavor is strong.