agosto 3, 2010
We don’t have Pick-Your-Own farm, where you can go and pick your own fruit and vegetables and then pay at the end the harvested products, seizing in the same time the opportunity to spend a beautiful day outdoors. I’ve been dreaming for months to visit a PYO Farm, thanks to Alex’s adventures with strawberries and Mowie’s with cherries.
So, why this incipit? Unfortunately I have not found a PYO farm around here… what happened is that Aunt Silvana’s apricot tree decided to produce tons of fruit, so she called along all the family to pick up ripe and marvellous apricots. Mom was in trepidation for over a week, she couldn’t wait to go picking apricots to make jam, her favorite summer activity.
Aunt Silvana moved to the countryside a few years ago, after having dreamt for such a long time a house surrounded by nature from her apartment in the suburbs of Florence. Now they have a beautiful house near Figline Val d’Arno, yes, the very area where Sting has his magnificent villa (I can’t hide you the fact that every time I visit Aunt Silvana I hope to bump into him by chance, since he is one of my preferred artists). Althought Aunt and Uncle have always lived in town, they showed immediately extraordinary adaptability and especially a deep understanding of Nature’s cycles, which allowed them to have a garden and an orchard in no time producing at full capacity.
The time spent in the orchard was exciting, despite the heat. Each countryside is a countryside in its special way, has its distinctive features, its colors, its sounds… picking up apricots became an adventure, a continuous discovery of smells carried by the wind, rustling bushes and flowers, furtive green-eyed black cats in the shadows (this elfish cat is Amelia, one of the three Aunt’s cats along with Spugnetta and Regina).
When you bring home three whole boxes of apricots (those beautiful fruit wooden boxes, rustic and cozy, with which you must pay attention not to find many small wood splinters in your hands!), you need urgently to find a way to use them before they decide on their own to become jam. So, let’s make jam! Mom, abiding traditions, followed her canonical recipe, but I’ve played around with my jars of spices in search of a special perfume to make these apricots even more special than they are, fruits ripened by the sun on trees, nourished by Aunt and Uncle love for the countryside.
Apricot Jam with cardamom & vanilla, ingredients for 3 jars of 300 gr each
- stoned apricots, 1 kg
- sugar, 300 gr
- vanilla, 1 pod
- cardamom, about 10 pods
- juice of 1 lime
Wash and stone apricots. Put them in a large pot with 300 gr of sugar, vanilla pod (split in a half) and juice of 1 lime. Crush cardamom pods in a mortar and put them in a capsule for herbal infusion or gathered in a small piece of gauze tied tight.
Let simmer on low heat for about 1 hour. Apricots themselves will produce the liquid into which they will get soft and cook. Do not overcook, otherwise the sugar will candy and jam will become darker.
After about 1 hour, remove from heat, remove vanilla bean and cardamom and blend with an immersion mixer: the jam should already be firm enough and not require further cooking. If you think it is still too liquid – consider that cooling down it will get firmer – let it simmer a few minutes more.
Sterilization. Pour jam into sterilized jars and close tight. Put the jars in a large pot and cover with water: bring to a boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes and then remove from the heat. Let the jars cool completely in the pan, then remove them from water. You can store them for several months in a dry, cool and dark place.
A few tips. If you don’t use vanilla and cardamom, you’ll get the classic apricot jam. You can also add cinnamon, almond leaves, ginger and Sichuan pepper. This jam is a perfect snack, spread generously on bread. Try apricot jam with cheese as well, topping a fresh raviggiolo (the freshest and lightest cheese, made from ricotta skimming) for a light dessert or with a young and mild cheese from cow’s milk, that will suite perfectly apricot acidity still detectable even within this jam.
P.S. Today I’m a bit sad and discouraged, and even a little embittered… It is something outside the gilded world of the blog and thanks Lord it has nothing to do health, nor mine, nor of my dear ones, so don’t worry! But I need your hugs!