I read somewhere that apricots are one of the only fruits that improve in flavor through cooking. I never want to believe such a thing could be true. All winter I indulge on dried apricots and apricot preserves, savoring each bite. When apricot season finally rolls around, after almost months of strawberries and a brief flirtation with cherries, I gladly shell out the $4 a pound for the petite fruit, rushing home like a child to enjoy my treasure.
The thing about apricots is they’re so small. Where as one peach may keep me satisfied, I need 3-4 apricots to do the same. I break open the first fruit, discard the pit and bite. Hmm, a little squishy–I must have picked an over ripe one. The next, firm but flavorless, another dud. After 3 or 4 apricots, I start to realize that cooking fact might have some weight to it. I’ve never enjoyed apricots fresh from the tree, but even the best looking specimens brought home from the greenmarkets never seem to achieve the flavor I expect compared to the jams, pies and crisps.
So this year my approach was to can instead of bite. I’ve never put up apricots before and after three years of canning I’m starting to wonder why. Easiest stone fruit to can EVER. No peeling, cut the fruit in half and the pits practically spring out at you–what’s not to love. Much better than peaches. Oh, we’ll get to my peach war story far enough. I’m still healing. But apricots are so easy: pit, chop and cook.
I could have just made plain apricot preserves–apricots, sugar and pectin. But what fun would that be. I go through enough sugar during the summer as it is, making simple syrups and recipes that prefer sugar to natural sweeteners, so when I can break away, I do, often with a vengeance. My favorite cooking book, that’s actually not a cookbook at all is The Flavor Bible, gifted to me a few Christmases ago by my sister-in-law (you know her as Serif and Spice). It lists practically every food item you can think of, whether it be produce, protein, grain, herb, etc. Then provides you with a handy dandy list of flavor matches. Bolded entries mean excellent pairing and BOLDED CAPS means you’ve hit the Holy Grail of flavor (think strawberry rhubarb). Tonight the Flavor Bible’s wisdom resulted in the pastas of all pastas for dinner–gnocchi in vodka sauce topped with buttery sage wild mushrooms. Another recipe for another day. Tonight we talk dessert.
Honey is my first choice when I can avoid sugar. For canning I stick to mild flavored honey,so as not to overpower the fruit. The Flavor Bible shouted, “Add some vanilla!”. Who am I to argue? I added a little more lemon juice than necessary to draw out the tartness of the apricots so they shone against the mild honey. Whole vanilla beans mellowed the flavors out perfectly. The recipe made just shy of 4 cups, which was perfectly fine with me–3 jars to put up and an almost full jar in the refrigerator to enjoy right now.
Vanilla Honey Apricot Preserves (Makes about 4 cups)
- 1000mg vitamin C (I use 4 250mg tablets)
- 1 qt cold water
- 6 c chopped, pitted apricots (about 2lbs)
- 1 c mild honey
- 6 tsp pectin powder
- 3 vanilla beans, split and scraped
- 1/2 c lemon juice
Crush vitamin C tablets with a mortar and pestle. In a large bowl mix cold water and powdered tablets. Soak fruit in mixture for a few minutes. This anti-browning solution will help keep the fruit vibrant orange through the cook and canning process.
In a large saucepan simmer chopped apricots, lemon juice, vanilla seeds and pods over medium heat, breaking down with a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon, for about 20 minutes. In small bowl, whisk together honey and pectin powder until pectin is dissolved. Stir into apricot mixture along with lemon juice. Continue cooking fruit until it reduces slightly and reaches the jellying stage, about 30 minutes. Remove fruit heat, discard vanilla beans and skim any foam.
Ladle preserves into hot sterile half-pint or 4-oz jelly jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
- Apricot and cardamom jam (thefrugalcook.blogspot.com)
- Apricot Pistachio Thumbprints (kinseycooks.wordpress.com)
- Honey Apricot Cake – Can be Gluten and Dairy Free (sukardessertblog.wordpress.com)
- Apricot & Peach Pecan Crumble (thepinkrosebakery.com)
- Recipe for a Brooklyn Locavore (bklynlocavore.com)
- Balsamic Cherry Preserves (bklynlocavore.com)
- Bourbon Sour Cherries (bklynlocavore.com)
Sounds so good with vanilla and honey. Never made preserves but this one has me very inspired to do so. I think I would especially enjoy a homemade apricot preserve over any other fruit. Great post.
Thank you! I love preserves because they’re so versicle. I make mine a little on the runnier side. They’re still great on toast, but also good to stir into yogurt, oatmeal, serve with cheese or any other ideas you can come up with. Personally, I find spoonfuls directly from the jar perfect 🙂
I think I would spoon it right from the jar too! This sounds so lovely to serve with yogurt. I know I would not be able to stop eating it.
This sounds so good! I made strawberry vanilla bean jam for the first time this summer. The strawberries macerated with sugar and vanilla beans for up to 72 hours (the jam is AMAZING!). Do you think you could do the same with apricots? Apricot jam is my favorite!
Oh wow, you have so much more patience than I do. I macerated strawberries for most canning recipes but for 4 hours max, thinking that was a lot. 72 hours?! I can only imagine how delicious that might be. I’m not sure sure how the apricots would work. They aren’t really as juicy. Maybe try for a few hours, taste them and see if its worth continuing. I would think juicier stone fruit like peaches and plums would benefit greatly from a 72 hour maceration though.
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Hi! So I made this recipe (and it is delicious) but it set up more like a homemade applesauce consistency (a little thin) instead of a thick preserve like I was expecting. Is that how yours came out too? I figure if that was the recipes intention I can just add more pectin next time. Thanks!
Thanks for the feedback. Mine was more like an apple butter–thicker and spreadable but not as much as a store bought jelly would be. However I did learn last year when making strawberry rhubarb jam that ripeness and juiciness does change the recipe a lot. My strawberries were so juicy that it took forever to cook down, even after straining the mixture to produce excess syrup. Sometimes it requires extra cooking; the jelly test really works to predict the final texture though.