Sunday, July 11, 2010

Strawberry Apricot Jam

If I had truly-French breakfasts, the way my grandparents used to have them, I would start my days with a big bowl of café au lait and dip tartines de confiture in it. The coffee would be freshly ground and brewed and would diffuse its delicious smell all around the house. I would add a dash of milk (and maybe drop one or two sugar cubes) in it and stir mechanically while listening to Radio France news. The tartines would be warm strips of fresh baguette, or better yet ficelle (a thinner, crispier version of the famous French bread), layered with butter and home-made jam. I would love the flavors and textures of bread soaked in coffee and coffee infused with butter and jam.

But I don't live in France, so forget the fresh ficelle bought every morning at the boulangerie just down the street. Caffeine makes my heart race, I don't like milk all that much, and I can't stand the sight of wet bread crumbs and melted butter floating in my beverage. For some reason I don't like the flavor combination of butter and jam either. (How odd! They're made for each other!) So my not-so-French breakfast consists of light black tea instead, and slices of whole wheat walnut bread, toasted and spread with either butter or jam, which I carefully keep away from my tea.

I mostly eat store-bought Bonne Maman jam, but there's nothing like home-made jam. And unless you own fruit trees that produce pounds and pounds of fruits every summer, you don't have to embark on a day-long adventure of making pounds and pounds of jam. A few jars are enough. And it doesn't take that long.

Here is a strawberry-apricot jam recipe inspired by the excellent jam recipes of my Larousse de la cuisine.

For 3 or 4 Jars

(I'm using 13-oz, i.e. 370-g, jars.)
  • 2 lb (or 1 kg) organic fruits (about 1/3 apricot, 2/3 strawberries)
  • 2 lb (or 1 kg) sugar (you can use gelling sugar or add fruit pectin but this is optional if you don't mind a slightly runny jam)
  • 1 organic lemon

Day 1

Prepare the fruits as follows:
  1. Rinse the apricots and strawberries, and cut them in 4 or 8 pieces, discarding the pits and stems.
  2. Place the fruit pieces in a glass container. Pour the sugar over them. Close the lid and shake well to coat.
  3. Leave in a cool place overnight.

Day 2

Clean 4 glass jars and their lids in warm, soapy water, then sterilize them for 5 minutes in a large, covered pot of boiling water. Let them dry on a clean kitchen towel.

Cook the jam in several iterations (simmering the fruits, then their juice alone, three times in a row), as follows:
  1. Pour the sugared fruits and all the juice from the glass container in a heavy-bottom pot.
  2. Stir in the lemon juice.
  3. Slowly bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar.
  4. Use a metal skimmer spoon to temporarily remove the fruits from the pot. Reserve the fruits, and simmer the juice for 5 minutes.
  5. Pour the fruits back into the pot; simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Skim the fruits out (reserve); simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Do steps 5 and 6 one more time (so total, the fruits have simmered for 15 minutes and the juice for 30 minutes). Stir in the fruits one last time and turn off the heat.
  8. Ladle the hot jam in the jars (you can use a jam funnel to work cleanly. Otherwise, simply wipe the jars with a damp paper towel if jam spills on the outside of the jar). Close the lids tightly. As the jam cools down and the air above it contracts, you will hear the lids pop. (There needs to be enough air, but not too much, between the jam and the lid. If you pour jam all the way to the base of the jar's screw, you should be fine.)
  9. Label the jars with the name of the fruits and the preparation date. Store in your pantry or kitchen closet for up to a year. Once a jar is open (or if the lid didn't pop), keep refrigerated.