FESTIVE APRICOTS, CRANBERRIES & BOOZE
Sunday December 05th 2010, 1:06 am

dried apricots golden sultanas and Amaretto - the raw ingredients

Month twelve, the very last Tigress’s can jam canning challenge and for December the ingredient chosen by the wonderous Tigress herself, who set the whole ball rolling in the first place, is dried fruits in all their jewelled and seasonal glory. Must admit, apart from chutneys, don’t think I’ve ever used dried fruits in my preserves so this is new for me.
Yet again Fancy Pantry by Helen Witty, my all time favourite book, provided the inspiration. Her dried apricot & amaretto conserve sounded just perfect to meet the criteria of this months challenge, though I’m not a fan of adding alcohol to my jams. Well I say I’m not, that should be, I wasn’t. Over the last year I have discovered how a little splash of kirsch takes sour cherries from quite nice to amazing. Likewise a spoonful of calvados added to apple butter, or some Cointreau poured over squashed plums can take mundane to magnificent, adding something not necessarily consciously alcoholic but that somehow completes the balance of flavours in a wonderful way.
This did mean I had to shell out for a bottle of Amaretto, the down side of acquiring a stock of liqueurs, they don’t come cheap. Thankfully, this jam turned out even better than expected, really special in fact, so now I’ve got plenty of the ingredients left to make more of the same to give as presents. I added fresh cranberries to my jam which are great not only for their flavour and seasonality but for the lovely colour they bring. After I’d made the jam and started to think what it would go well with, ‘warm croissants’ absolutely shouted out to me.

a festive preserve - Apricot, Cranberry and Amoretti jam

I have opted for bright orange sulphured apricots over the darker unsulphured variety for my jam because I can’t bear the thought of starting out with dark brown fruit. It doesn’t bode well in my mind, brown fruit can only get doomier as it cooks, and for a special holiday preserve you want to push the boat out a bit. This preserve could take even less sugar that I used. I did a sugar test on it using a refractrometer and found that it contained 57%. For a preserve to store well without canning, it should be nearer to 65%, so if you aren’t into canning and want to be sure this jam will store in the pantry for any length of time without worrying it will go mouldy, I’d advise you to up the sugar content from 450g to 600g, but taste wise it doesn’t benefit from it. The added alcohol will also help to act as a preservative. This jam tastes so good it most likely wont hang around long enough anyway. If you are not into canning, this should make it obvious why canning is so brilliant. You can preserve using less sugar so the overriding flavour of your jam is the fruit it contains, not sugar. Preaching over, here’s the recipe.

jam with croissant for breakfast

APRICOT, CRANBERRY AND AMARETTO JAM

Makes approx 1.4Kg (3 lbs) jam

225g (8oz) dried apricots
150g (5 1/2oz) golden sultanas or raisins
0.90 ltr (3 1/2 cups) water
225g (8oz) fresh cranberries
1 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
0.25ltr (1 cup) freshly squeezed orange juice
2Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
450g (3 cups) sugar
3Tbsp Amaretto liqueur

Chop the apricots into small evenly-shaped pieces. Place them in a bowl with the sultanas and pour over 0.75ltr (3 cups) water. Leave to soak overnight.
Next day, prepare the water bath, jars and seals ready for canning. For more info about how to hot water process, refer to the guide here. Place the cranberries in a pan with the remaining water and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes until the fruits have popped and are cooked through. Leave to cool slightly, then add all of the remaining ingredients (including soaking liquid) except the Amaretto.
Stir to dissolve the sugar and once it has, turn up the heat to a rolling boil and bring the jam to setting point (took me about 10-15 minutes), that is when a dollop on a cold plate readily forms a skin that wrinkles when you push your finger over the surface. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes then stir in the Amaretto. Pour into hot sterilised jars, seal and process for 10 minutes. Remove from the water bath and leave till completely cold before testing the seals and labelling.

fresh cranberries

IT’S A WRAP

Well that’s it. A whole year of the Tigresscanjam completed and wow, it has been amazing. I intend to write another post soon to round up what I’ve learnt and how it has changed my approach to preserving. Thanks to dearest Tigress for taking the time to not only oversee the challenge and the monthly roundups but for asking me to take part. To think that this experience could have passed me by …. well what can I say, how foolish I would have been without that gentle nudge.
I have found all you other canjammers participating truly inspiring. Thanks to all of you for helping me learn so much. As well as introducing me to Meyer lemons, Concorde grapes and Seckel pears, ingredients I will no doubt spend the rest of my life trying to experience first hand, amongst other things, too many to mention here, I’ve got over a few hangups I had about American-isms (and Canadian-isms if there is such a thing) such as ‘canning’. We are of course divided by a common language and as the only Brit taking part, I hope that you’ve likewise picked up some of the flavour of our approach to ‘bottling’ here in the UK. - Love G x