After the sky clouded over in a wash of gray early this morning, I immediately knew what need to be done. Turn those apricots we drove all the way to Hudson, New York to find into jam before they turn as soft and mushy as sponge cake. I’m not sure what came over me several weeks ago, be it pregnancy cravings or the need for a quick road trip before the baby’s arrival next month, but I was slightly obsessed with the tender pitted fruit.
It wasn’t until late in the afternoon after we had already visited the farmers market and left empty handed, that we casually drove by then stopped upon my insistence at a farm stand nestled along a hidden country road. The shelves were stocked with enough vegetables to fill the freezer with any number of summer stews. I picked up a bag of potatoes, onions, and two heads of garlic convinced that I would have to settle for a basket of plums. Then I spied two baskets of apricots on the bottom shelf in the crook of a corner I hadn’t yet seen. I placed them on the counter and announced how happy I was to have found them. The woman at the cash register gingerly looked at me as if she were measuring my sanity and said, “Well, I’m glad I could make your day.”
“Me too,” I said as I held the bag of apricots up like a trophy on my way back to the car.
It was a small but significant pleasure.
Quick Apricot Freezer Jam
slightly adapted from Ruth Reichl’s Fresh Apricot Jam
makes 3 half-pint (8 ounce) jam jars plus 1 (4 ounce) jam jar
1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups natural cane sugar
2 pounds apricots (washed, dried, pitted and halved)
1 vanilla bean
1/2 tablespoon St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur (or use up to 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice)
Stir the sugar and water together in a small heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring until clear, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add half the apricots to the sugar syrup. Simmer until they soften and nearly disintegrate, stirring along the way, for about 10 minutes or so.
Add the remaining apricots, vanilla bean, and St. Germaine. Stir for another 5-7 minutes, until the apricots collapse and soften.
Remove the vanilla bean. Slice it the long way, and run a knife along the inside edge to remove the seeds. Stir the seeds into the jam. Cook for another 3 minutes. Allow the jam to completely cool.
Place the jam into jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space and wipe down the rims with a clean, damp paper towel. Screw on the lids. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year.