Apricot Lavender Jam

It's that time of year! Bow to the king of apricots, the Royal Blenheim!

The last couple of weeks, I've been religiously anticipating, checking, and waiting for an email from Wolfe Ranch announcing the arrival of their Blenheims. The season is short, 2-3 weeks, so you can't blink. This year, their harvest was down, so all the apricots were spoken for within the first week. Thankfully, I managed to place my order in time for two 24 pound boxes (yes, that's 48 pounds of apricots!).

We are going to be eating apricots at every meal this week! I also plan on stashing a dozen apricot crostatas in the freezer. Yep, Blenheim season all year long! Finally, summer fruit harvest would not be complete without a ton of jamming. Putting up jars and jars of sweet sunshine to enjoy throughout the year, plus share with friends.

Here's one riff on apricot jam - adding lavender for a subtle herbaceous floral note. You can buy culinary lavender buds, or if you grow lavender in your garden, snip off a few flower stalks. Of course, use your lavender only if grown organically without any insecticide sprays.

Place the lavender in the center of a double layer square of cheesecloth, then tie into a bundle. If you have the time, bury the bundle in the sugar a few days in advance for an extra infusion of flavor. Otherwise, you can just add the lavender bundle when preparing the ingredients to macerate overnight.

Note: I go by weight when making jam, usually two parts fruit to one part sugar, so for example 1 kg fruit to 500g sugar.  However, in the recipe below, I also give some approximate volume quantities.

Apricot Lavender Jam
Makes 4 - half pint jars

Make lavender bundle
Place in center of double layer square of cheesecloth and tie into a bundle:
3 lavender flowers (organic, insecticide-free) OR 1 tbs culinary lavender buds, tied in a cheesecloth bundle

Make lavender-infused sugar (Optional)
A few days before making jam, put in a sealable container:
lavender bundle
500g granulated sugar (2 1/2 cups)

Make jam
When you are ready to make the jam, place in a large non-reactive stock pot or Dutch oven:
1kg pitted fresh apricots, cut into eighths (approx. 1.1kg  or 2.4lbs unpitted apricots)

Add to the apricots:
Lavender-infused sugar, including lavender bundle (see above) OR 500g regular granulated sugar 
Lavender bundle (only if using regular sugar)
juice of a lemon

Stir to combine, then cover pot with a tea cloth and leave on counter overnight to allow the apricots to macerate in the sugar.

The next day, remove cheesecloth bag. Make sure to squeeze out all the good flavor in there! It's ok if some of the lavender escapes out of the bundle. Put a couple of small plates in the freezer.

Place stock pot on medium-high burner and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent the bottom from scorching. I like to use a wood spatula which doesn't get hot.  Its long flat edge also does a better job of scraping the bottom than a spoon.

Keep an eye on the boiling jam. Turn down heat if necessary to keep from boiling over.  You may see some foaming as the jam starts to boil.  It's not necessary to skim off the foam as it will dissipate as you continue to cook the jam.

When it looks like it's thickened or jelled, turn off the heat and place a small spoonful on the frozen plate. Return to the freezer for a couple of minutes. Then draw your finger thru the jam. If it wrinkles and mounds, it's done. If not, continue to boil and try again. This is the great part about homemade jam. You get to decide how thick you want your jam. I like my jam on the runny side, so 10-15 minutes of cooking works for me.

Ladle jam into sterilized canning jars to within 1/4 inch of top.  Put on cap; screw band fingertip tight. Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Alternatively, if you don't want to can, let the jam cool a bit and then ladle into freezer-proof containers leaving plenty of headspace for expansion. Once cooled, store in freezer for up to one year. You can also store in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.

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