Here is how to make apricot jam when distracted: first, buy apricots from the store, loose ones rolling around the bin, almost overripe with blush-y skins and soft middles. Perfect fruit for jamming with. At home, wash and weigh them. Pause to think of how everything is heavy, but not everything can be weighed or measured. Can you measure life, or the deep, unsettling hollowness that comes from its absence, death? My grandmother is gone. I miss her in a way I cannot quantify. It is a feeling without measure.
Startle back to movement. Halve the apricots, cleave them roughly apart with prying fingers, don’t worry about jagged edges. Don’t worry about anything else either, except, maybe worry about the future, maybe worry about what things would be like if my mother- no. Stop. Don’t go there, to that dark place. Leave old, human anxieties be. Worrying won’t create change. Neither will jam, but, well.
The apricots go into a pot with some sugar. I smash them with my fingers and try to recount the events of the past week, to categorize things. A new job, a death, a wedding, a birth, a birthday. Life and all of its beautiful parts, and some of its emptier, harder ones mixed in, too. Parts that hit you hard, up close, punching you, leaving you with a nosebleed when you least expect it. But then there is also the joy of watching life’s major moments happen- even if the wedding is tinged with sadness, even if you celebrate said birthday with less gusto than usual.
Bring the apricots to a boil, along with some lemon juice that will make cuts you didn’t know you had sting and with thousands of black vanilla speckles that will make floral flavors sing. As the fruit meshes with the sugar, sweet scents fill the air and make summer feel like a tangible present. The apricots turn into a vivid, splattery (careful- it’s hot!) jam and it is ready before I have a chance to finish thinking all of my thoughts, but that’s okay, because it’s bright, it’s fresh, and it tastes like summer condensed in a jar. It tastes like happiness.
That, my friends, is how you make distracted apricot jam.
HBD to my dearest aunt Malka. I’d make jam for you any day. ❤ Chaya
Yields: around 3 cups of jam
Lightly adapted from Sweeter Off The Vine
Why I love this recipe: this jam lets the flavor of apricots shine through by using a scant amount of sugar and a little lemon juice, which helps the fruit retain its signature tartness. Vanilla bean adds classic flavor and the jam keeps for a month in the fridge, no complicated canning needed.
- 1 1/4 lbs. fresh apricots, split and kernels removed
- 1 scant cup sugar
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- First, place two teaspoons and a small plate in the freezer. These will be used to determine if the jam is ready.
- In a heavy bottomed pot, using your fingers, a big fork, or a potato masher, mash the apricots with the sugar.
- Add the lemon juice and vanilla bean to the apricots. Turn the flame on medium high and let the mixture come to a boil.
- Stir constantly with a spatula to ensure the mixture doesn’t burn and scorch on the bottom.
- After about 10-15 minutes, the jam should be thickened and ready.
- Carefully, as the jam will be hot and splattery, take one of the spoons from the freezer and dip it into the pot. Return the spoon, with a little jam on it, to the plate in the freezer.
- Let it rest for one minute, then poke it. If it wrinkles and meets your touch without sliding around, it’s ready. If not, let the jam cook for a few more minutes.
- When it’s ready, remove the jam from the heat and fish out the vanilla bean. Transfer the jam to jars and let cool to room temperature.
- Store in the fridge, where the jam will keep for a month.