The hand that stirs the jam pot rules the kitchen.
(At least for a day.)
I love eating -- and hate making -- jam, so I'm wildly grateful that J enjoys the whole lengthy, oft-messy procedure. After Saturday's session with seven pounds of apricots, he not only cleaned up afterwards but also typed up the recipe. I may have to stay married to him for another 45 years.
Jack's Astonishingly-Delicious Apricot Jam
7 lbs apricots, not too ripe
8 cups sugar
1 lemon, whole, but peel removed
Cheesecloth and cotton string
Split apricots lengthwise and pit --reserve pits -- and place 2/3 of the fruit in a
large mixing bowl, reserving the rest. Cover with the sugar and squeeze the lemons into the bowl thru a sieve. Stir the mixture and set aside for 15 minutes.
Place sufficient well-washed canning jars and lids on a cookie sheet in a 225 deg. oven for at least 15 minutes.
Cut the lemon into 1/8ths and tie inside a cheescloth bag with a long cotton string.
Take the apricot and sugar mixture, which should have liquified, and place in a large stainless or copper pot. Set over high heat until the mixture boils; then reduce heat to medium, but keep a high boil. Toss in the cheesecloth with the lemon carcasses and seeds inside and tie the string to a handle. Boil the mixture about 20minutes, stirring frequently. It will create considerable foam and must not boil over, so control the fire.
When the foam starts to subside, add the reserved apricots.
While the jam is cooking, place the apricot pits on a heavy wooden chopping block and strike them gently with a hammer to crack them open. Remove the white kernels.
(This takes some practice to prevent kernel-smashing.)
Chop the kernels into fine dice, and add them to the pot once the reserved apricots have softened.
[Margin Note: Don't skip this step. The chopped kernel bits give the jam a nice almondy undernote as well as a bit of appealing crunch.]
Squeeze the cheesecloth bag against the side of the kettle to release the pectin from the lemons; remove the bag and discard.
Now test the jam for temperature and thickness. It should read 218-220 degrees with a candy or instant thermometer. Lacking one of these, take a small saucer from the freezer and drop a large drop of jam on it. Return to the freezer for 2 minutes and then push against it with a spoon. If done, the jam drop will wrinkle.
When thickened to your liking, remove from the fire and fill the canning jars hot from the oven with the jam to within 1/2 inch of the top. (A canning funnel helps.) Immediately seal the jars with a canning lid and ring and set aside to cool. When the jam cools, the jar lids should audibly pop to their sealed position. If this doesn't occur, refrigerate and use within a week or two.
[Margin Note: This is not a hardship. I've gone through half a jar in 3 days.]