We ran out of our 2010 apricot jam very early this winter. The recipe was new to us and was intriguing because it used both the apricot flesh and the kernel found inside the pit. The full recipe can be found in Chez Panisse Fruit by the incomparable Alice Waters on page 25. This recipe alone is worth the price of the book; but any fruit lover will find dozens of delicious ideas inside as you work your way alphabetically through the crops, one chapter at a time, from Apples to Strawberries. Buy this book!
Alice uses just four simple ingredients for her jam: apricots, sugar, a few apricot kernels (called noyaux) and lemon juice. We followed the recipe as written except that we reduced the amount of sugar to suit our taste. That yielded us a softer jam; it was more the texture of a thick sauce. We loved it on pancakes, toast, and ice cream. Four thumbs up, our highest praise!
Another version of apricot jam, using similar techniques but not calling for cot kernels, is available in Fanny at Chez Panisse: A Child’s Restaurant Adventures with 46 Recipes, written by Alice Waters, Bob Carrau and Patricia Curtan.
Not all fruit is born perfect; Mother Nature likes variety and is apparently bored by sameness. This spring's weather was unusually wet and the result is lots of scarred fruit. We sort our crops into three categories. Our #1 grade is the most perfect, with the best size and appearance. The #2 grade has some skin blemishes and oddly-shaped fruits. The #3 grade are the culls; they include over-ripes, bird pecked and insect-damaged fruit. To be frugal and use the harvest to the fullest, we try to find good homes for all our fruit.
Here on the farm, we use a lot of culls for jam making, drying, freezing and baking. This year, for instance, most of our apricots have some shot hole fungus because of the late rains. The taste of the fruit is unaffected but the tongue feel of these “freckles” may not be suitable in all dishes. Over the years we have found it wise to have sharp knives in the kitchen and use them well. I love the fruit that is picked dead-ripe off the tree and am willing to cut my way through lots of culls to get those soft, succulent apricots for my jam.
One final story from a woman who lives in Italy and shops the farmers markets there: At Italian outdoor markets, a customer tells the seller how many fruits she wants and the farmer selects them. If she requests three fruits, she gets one perfect, one somewhat blemished, and one ugly. That way all produce is put to good use instead of ending up discarded. Seems an admirable custom given that in our country almost half our food is wasted.