Le pays d'abricot

We live in apricot country and I swear, I don't remember a better year. The fruits are plump, perfumed, seductive. I began making my annual batch of jam today, and use it year-round as a flavorful base for fruit tarts. The original recipe comes from The Provence Cookbook.

Maryse’s Apricot Jam/La Confiture d’Abricots de Maryse

To me, this is unquestionably the world’s greatest jam.  I generally don’t swoon over sweets,  but the first time I tasted this homemade apricot jam I  was stunned.  Not too sweet, rich with the almond-like, faintly acidic apricot flavor, this jam is full of  the fragrances and colors of Provence. The recipe comes from Maryse Jourdan, who lives in the village of Goult in the Luberon. She is one of the best jam makers I know. Whenever I use  a fresh vanilla bean, scraping out the little seeds, I reserve the pods, dry them, then bury them in a huge jar of organic cane sugar. Today I decided to add some of those pods to the jam, making for an even more perfumed sweet.    

Equipment: An unlined copper bassine à confitures, or a large-bottomed, heavy-duty stock pot.

2 pounds (1 kg) apricots,  rinsed,  halved, and pitted (reserve the pits)

1 1/2 cups (300 g) organic cane sugar

4 vanilla beans that have perfumed a jar of sugar

1. Crack 10 of the pits to reveal an almond-like nut within. Reserve these nuts, discarding the remaining pits. In a large unlined copper jam pot or a large-bottomed, heavy-duty stock potlarge unlined copper jam pot or large-bottomed, heavy-duty stock pot, combine the apricots, reserved nuts, and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook over moderate heat, stirring regularly, for 1 hour. Do not allow the mixture to burn or to stick to the bottom of the pan. The mixture will turn very thick and bright orange and most of the apricots will melt into a purée. Transfer to a bowl and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours. (This 24-hour aging period helps give the jam a greater depth of flavor.)

2. When ready to complete the jam, prepare four 8-ounce canning jars with lids by sterilizing them in boiling water according to the jar manufacturer’s instructions.

3. The next day, reheat the mixture in the jam pot or stock pot over moderate heat, until very thick. Transfer to the hot, sterilized jelly jars, leaving ¼-inch headroom. Seal according to the jar manufacturer’s instructions. Store in a cool, dry, place for up to 1 year.

Makes about four 8-ounce jars