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 and vanilla
- 1 kg apricots
- 300 g sugar
- 1 vanilla pod
- 10 cardamom pods
- 1 organic lemon
- Wash the apricots and remove the stones. Collect them in a large pot with the split vanilla bean and the lemon juice. Add also the squeezed lemon to the pot, as it will release pectin, very important to have a thick jam. Crush the cardamom pods and place them in a piece of tighly closed cheese cloth. Add the cardamom, too.
- Cook the apricots over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until they begin to collapse. Stir often.
- When the apricots are soft, remove the vanilla bean, the cardamom pods and the two half lemons, then purée the apricots with an immersion blender.
- Add the sugar and stir well until melted.
- Put the pot back on the stove and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes. If you have a pastry thermometer, the jam will be ready when it reaches 105°C (221°F). The jam will be still very liquid, it will thicken up once cooled down.
- You can also check empirically whether the jam is ready or not with the saucer test. Pour a drop of jam onto a cold dish from the freezer. If it thickens and does not slip away when you tilt the saucer, the jam is ready to be poured into sterilized jars.
- To sterilise the jars, you can boil the jars placed in a large pot and covered with water for about 20 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the jars cool down completely before removing them.
- They can be kept in the pantry for more than a year.
Learn more about jam making here.
A few tips. Just avoid vanilla and cardamom and you’ll get the classic apricot jam. You can also add cinnamon, almond leaves, lavender, 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!