Saturday, September 8, 2012

Apricot and Vanilla Jam

The first of the stone fruits and perfect for preserving, apricots signal summer's heightening and the promise of what's to come-- plums, peaches, tomatoes, corn...

The appeal of this fruit from a canning perspective is its inherent acidity, and that acidity is the key to the perfectly balanced finished product --- the tart tempering the sweet in that "I want more" kind of way.

And then there are the kernels. Crack an apricot pit open and one is rewarded with a small kernel heady with a sweet almond aroma. A few of these infused in the jam add a subtle depth of flavor and sweetness on the nose that may not be easily identifiable, but would be missed if absent. We have read that Italian amaretto liqueur and amaretti biscuits are actually sweetened with the extract of apricot kernels rather than the widely believed almond, which seems completely plausible.

Although the origin of this lovely fruit remains somewhat hazy (some say Armenia, but likely China), it seems that we have the Spaniards to thank for bringing it to the New World, and for that we can only say Muchos Gracias!

This jam, delicate in texture and bright in colour, pairs well with a mild, nutty blue cheese. It makes a great glaze for pork when mixed with a spoonful of grainy dijon mustard. Bourbon and apricot jam are also one delightful combination. Finally, a thin layer of apricot jam in an almond tart recipe adds a nice, surprising lift.

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