In response to a question about where to get good jam on the San Francisco Board I am posting this incredibly good and easy method of making Jam. Local California Apricots are about 70 days away so start salivating now.
Apricot or peach jam the three-day-way
They say to use hard ripe fruit for jam because as the fruit softens its pectin weakens. But to me "hard ripe" is an oxymoron. I use mostly dead ripe fruit, because the point of jam is the flavor and I'm not interested in seeing the jam stands up on it's own. Since too much heat also diminishes the flavor, I use lower heat for less time and a large pan (so the fruit can cook quickly). Use a flat-top-spoon that doubles as a scraper to keep the jam from burning on the bottom of the pan.
I also avoid using white peaches for jam. Their subtle flavor depends on their lovely aroma, which is lost when they're cooked.
Apricot, Peach. or Strawberry Jam
4 cups sugar
4 heaping cups sliced fresh apricots or peaches, with skins, or halved strawberries
½ cup lemon juice
1 pinch salt
½ teaspoon unsalted butter
1. Pour 1 cup sugar into a large covered stainless-steel pan (I use a large chicken fryer).
2. Sprinkle 2 cups of the sliced fruit over the sugar. Top with another cup of sugar. Spread the rest of the fruit on top. Cover the fruit with the remaining 2 cups of sugar, coating all exposed surfaces. Add a pinch of salt.
3. Cover and set aside at room temperature overnight. Stir after 6 or 8 hours.
4. The next day, stir it up and then heat the fruit mixture to a boil. Cook for 1 minute and remove from the heat.
5. With a slotted spoon, remove the fruit slices to a stainless-steel bowl. Cover the fruit and cover the syrup still in the pan and let sit overnight.
6. Wash your jars in the dishwasher, with a hot dry cycle. Place the jars mouth side down on paper towels. Wash the lids and rings by hand.
7. Bring the syrup to a boil. Add the butter (to reduce foaming). Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes, or until the syrup passes the spoon test (see note).
8. Add the fruit solids. Let the jam come to a boil again and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Fill and seal the jars. Turn them upside down and let them sit for 5 minutes. Then turn them back right side up.
9. Let cool, label them and put them in your larder.
Note: Scoop up a small amount of jam in the spoon and let it run back into the pan. First it will pour. At the end when it's ready, it should form two large drops which will merge into one big hesitant drop.
Nice but not necessary:
A Chinese ladle. One of my favorite kitchen implements is a wooden-handled Chinese ladle I bought in San Francisco's Chinatown. It was cheap and it really works. The spoonlike angle makes it much easier to use than a European right-angled ladle. And the shape of the bowl is perfect, wide and shallow. You can move large quantities of hot preserves, but you can always see how much fruit and how much liquid are going into each jar.
A canning funnel. The cheap plastic ones work just as well as fancier models. Essential if you want your jam in the jar and not all over the kitchen.
A chicken fryer. This is just a frying pan that's about four inches deep. Perfect for making small batches of delicate preserves because there is a lot of evaporation from the surface of a thin layer of syrup rather than a deep narrow pot.
With permission from the Curmudgeon's Home Companion, August 1999