NY State Fair Jam ’09 part 1: Apricots & chipotle peppers

28 08 2009
Apricot fruit
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Most people who are bringing jam to the New York State Fair jam competitions today (yes, toDAY) probably made their jams days ago. I’d certainly planned to make mine earlier than 2 a.m. the day the entry was due, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

It was humid last weekend. If you make jam in humid weather, you need to either eat it right away, or freeze it right away — if you don’t , it may mold. Tuesday night I went out to dinner with my cousin and her daughter, who came into town so my younger cousin could start her freshman year at Syracuse University. Wednesday night, I came home from work and crashed, slept straight through ’til morning. Thursday when I got home from work, the old dog had a rough evening and needed a quick bath.

So it’s 2 a.m. Friday morning, and I just finished the jam that is due at the fair for culinary competition at 8:15 a.m.. I am not a morning person, but I think this freezer jam will wake up everyone who tastes it.

Because I was 24 hours short on time, I needed to modify the original recipe for peach jam I found on the back of the Ball Simple Creations (R) No Cook Freezer Jam Pectin. I’d already decided to use apricots instead of peaching (stone fruits like peaches, apricots and plums can be substituted for each other.) But apricots can take a bit longer to set in jams, sometimes as long as 24 hours. That meant I had to use a bit of kitchen magic: if you bring them to a slow boil and hold them there for about five minutes, apricots will jell more quickly. So while I prepared the other ingredients and washed containers, I brought my crushed apricots and juice to a slow boil.

The recipe called for lemon juice; I also added lemon zest and grated ginger root to increase the jam’s bright citrus-y flavor (and sing harmony with the heat of the chipotle pepper puree.) I ran out of white granulated sugar, so used 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar to make up the correct amount — this will darken jam, so use it sparingly with light colored fruits. And for a little kick in the jam, I stirred in a tablespoon of finely pureed chipotle peppers. Fingers crossed that my improvisation of one jam from another wows the freezer jam judges this morning!

Apricot Chipotle Freezer Jam

(makes 3 1/2 cups, or seven 4-oz. jelly jars)

2 lbs. apricots, pitted and quartered (about 3 cups, crushed)
1 1/4 cups white granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest
1 /2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon pureed chipotle pepper*
1 package no-cook freezer jam pectin (I used Ball Simple Creations (R))

  • Pit the apricots, quarter them and crush in a food mill or processor until you have a slightly chunky puree.
  • Bring the crushed apricots slowly to a boil over medium heat.
  • While the apricots come to a boil, stir the sugars, lemon juice, lemon zest, grated ginger and pureed chipotle pepper together.
  • When the apricots come to a boil that can’t be stirred down, remove from the heat and stir them into the sugar mixture until well-blended. Let stand 10 minutes.
  • While the apricot and sugar mixture is standing, prepare the containers and their lids. Wash them in hot soapy water, rinse them and dry thoroughly.
  • After 10 minutes, stir the no-cook freezer jam pectin into the fruit-sugar mixture and stir until the pectin is dissolved. Stir continuously for three minutes.
  • Ladle the jam into the prepared containers (suitable for freezing), leaving about 1/2 inch head-space in each jar.
  • Let jam stand in containers for 30 minutes. Confirm that the jam has set, and then cap the containers. Jam can be frozen for up to 1 year, or refrigerate and use within 3 weeks.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups jam, enough to fill seven 4-oz. jam jars.

* Chipotle puree can be very spicy. You may want to stir it into the sugar mixture 1 teaspoon at a time, or to your taste.

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