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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Apricot and Pineapple Jam

This is the spring of apricots. Last year was the spring of cherries. I love it that I can rotate through the seasons again and again and keep exploring a new food or new combinations each time.

Apricot and pineapple are a traditional pairing, and for good reason. I've been making plum and pineapple jam for years but always used canned crushed pineapple. It's easy and good. I'm still known for throwing in some canned pineapple when I have an odd-ball amount of fruit that needs to be extended for a good batch of jam. For this jam, I wanted to use fresh pineapple in larger chunks. Apricots can cook right down. I usually cut them into eighths - pretty chunky. The larger chunks of pineapple will add a nice and recognizable texture.

When cutting the pineapple, you may be able to squeeze a good amount of juice from the outer rind that has been cut away.

 Some fruits contain air pockets that make them prone to floating in the finished jam. Pineapple is one of these. To mitigate the floating, I mashed the pineapple. See all those little bubbles? Lots of the air came out, but the pieces did not break apart. The apricots need a gentler hand. After cooking, they won't float.



Apricot and Pineapple Jam
1 large, ripe pineapple
Apricots to bring the prepared fruit weight up to 4 lbs
1/4 cup lemon juice
4-5 cups sugar

Prepare 9 half pint jars and lids and the boiling water bath. Place several spoons and saucers in the freezer.

Trim and cut up the pineapple. Be sure to remove all brown spots and the tiny seeds. Squeeze as much juice as you can out of the peels. Chop the fruit roughly and add to the bowl with the juice. Place a bowl on a kitchen scale and reset to zero. Add the pineapple and its juice. Add apricots that have been pitted and cut into eighths until the weight comes up to 4 pounds. Pour all the fruit into a very large stock pot and add the lemon juice and the sugar*. Bring to a boil, reduce heat slightly and boil until it reaches the gel point. This may take 40-45 minutes. You will have to stir more frequently towards the end of the cooking time as the apricots may stick as they begin to break down. To test the jam, scoop a teaspoon out with one of your frozen spoons and place it back in the freezer on one of the saucers. When it is just cool, push it with your finger. If the surface wrinkles and the jam mounds up a bit, it is ready.

Remove the pot from the heat and skim off any foam. Stir lightly to insure that the fruit is well distributed. Carefully ladle into hot, prepared jars. Wipe the rims with a damp cloth and cover with lids and rings. Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove to a towel lined tray and allow to cool overnight before labeling and storing.

Makes 8-9 half pints

Note: You can easily make a delicious pure apricot jam by using the same proportions and 100% apricots with no pineapple. To enhance the flavor, break open the pits with a hammer and put the kernels into a wire mesh tea ball and add to the fruit for the duration of the boiling time.

*Apricots will vary wildly in sweetness. If you can get very good, tree-ripened fruit, less sugar is required. The range I've given you will meet the setting needs of the jam, so the rest is up to you. Start with 4 cups and about halfway through cooking, taste and add sugar if your taste requires it. I ended up with 4 and 1/2 cups on this recipe.

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