|Vanilla apricot jam: I'm freckled. Can you tell?|
It turns out that apricots were made for jam. Who knew? I wasn't convinced of this before (cranky jelly has always been my no. 1, for the record), but this vanilla twist on the classic flavour has me singing a new tune.
Not surprisingly, I wasn't the only with the bright idea to put a vanilla bean in her apricot jam. Jeannette of Everybody Likes Sandwiches was a summer ahead of me. The recipe she uses calls for equal parts apricots and sugar by volume, instead of weight as below. Since I lack all but the kitchen basics at the moment, measuring cups included, I can't tell you how the two methods stack up (quick, someone do an infographic). What I do know is: it's jam, it's sweet, you'll probably like it.
Vanilla Apricot Jam
Apricots, halved, stone removed
Wash, dry and halve the apricots, discarding the stones as you go. Leave the skins on!
Weigh the prepared fruit in a large saucepan, and add an equal weight of sugar. To that, add just enough water to moisten the sugar (I used approximately 1 cup of water for 1 kilogram of apricots/sugar).
Score your vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape out as many of the seeds as possible directly into the saucepan, then toss the empty pod in too.
Heat the saucepan over low-medium heat until the sugar melts, then increase the heat to medium/medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil, spooning foam off the surface as it accumulates. Turn the heat down, but maintain a simmer. Stir periodically while the mixture burbles for 35-45 minutes (I went for the full 45 minutes).
How you'll know you're done: the apricot halves will start disintegrating and the mixture will coat the back of a spoon.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Fish out and discard the vanilla bean pod, admiring the vanilla polka dots in your jam as you do.
At this point, you can either go ahead with your usual canning process, or simply let the mixture cool to room temperature, ladle it into jars and enjoy it over the next few weeks. If you like a chunky jam, leave the mixture as is; if you prefer a smoother texture, whiz it briefly in a food processor. You'll lose a bit of clarity, but gain consistency.