Apricot Conserve with Vanilla and Almonds
My father had quite an orchard growing in the back garden of our family home. There were a dozen assorted grapevines and numerous fruit trees; including peaches, nectarines and a tall apricot tree. The apricot tree must have been particularly content, for the fruit we enjoyed from it was huge, dense, fleshy, fragrant and so flavoursome I can still taste it now. Supermarket fruit simply isn't the same. In fact, the only apricots I have tasted since that were anywhere near as good were grown by my dear friend Christine, who often presented me with treasured jars of jam made from her summer bounty.
Like Christine, my mother made conserve from the apricots in our garden and used it in her palacsinta (pancakes). See Christine's food wine travel blog and my guest post on that topic. Mum taught me that apricots are not high in pectin content, so we need to use lemon zest and juice to help set the jam. Commercially produced pectin in powdered form is available from supermarkets and delicatessens and is a good standby when making jam and fruit conserve. I have adapted this recipe from my mother's version and added slivered almonds and the seeds scraped from a vanilla pod which bring a lovely depth of flavour. The apricots are cut in half (rather than chopped) and not cooked down as much as when making jam, so you are left with larger pieces of fruit in the conserve.
Apricots are in season now and prices should be coming down, so buy from your local grower or farmer's markets and enjoy the flavour of summer later in the year. If there are any left over, poach them in a vanilla sugar syrup and enjoy them with lashings of home made vanilla ice cream.
Do you grow fruit trees in your garden? What is your secret to growing delicious apricots and other stone fruits?
APRICOT CONSERVE WITH VANILLA AND ALMONDS
1 kg apricots
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon slivered almonds
seeds scraped from one vanilla pod
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
4 cups sugar
Wash and dry the apricots. Cut the apricots in half, remove the stones and combine the apricots, water, lemon juice and zest, vanilla seeds and almonds in a large heavy based saucepan. Stir and bring to the boil and simmer till the fruit is tender. Add the sugar and cook, stirring till the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook rapidly for 30 minutes until the conserve will set. Pop a small plate or saucer into the freezer and use it to test for jelling. The jam is ready when it sets on a cold saucer.
In the meantime, sterilise your jars and lids by putting them onto a tray in a cold oven and then bring the temperature to 120 degrees C. The jars need to be in the oven for at least 30 minutes). Remove the jam from the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Ladle into hot, sterilised jars, label and seal when cold. Makes 4 x 300ml jars.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.