It’s the season for stone fruits here in Melbourne, and that's amazing because you can land a huge box of apricots for just $5 at the markets. That’s a bargain! When you’ve got that many apricots there is only one thing to do, make JAM! Ok, you could do more with them like just eat them but who doesn’t love jam am I right?
My nanna used to make the best blackberry jam ever, she was the jam queen. Jam is this magical condiment and there’s actually a fair bit of science behind the magic. In a commercial jam, they usually add pectin but with homemade jam, you don’t need pectin, you can make it with SCIENCE!
Why you should make your own jam...
There are so many reasons you should make jam! It’s fun it’s sciencey and tastes so good. As always homemade tastes so much better than the ones you find in the supermarket. Not only do they taste better, but they are free of any additional nasties or additives/preservatives.
They also make great gifts, and the perfect way to use up some fruits you have laying around. Stone fruit season is usually in the summer so, it’s the perfect excuse to take advantage of this great season.
The Science behind Jam...
Due to the technical aspect of jam, it can be quite tricky to make. Especially if you’re like me, and forget to measure things properly, which I often do, then you may end up chasing your tail, which I always seem to be doing.
Jam has 3 main compounds which make it this jelly-like texture that we all love, pectin, sugar and acid. For a more scientific explained version of below check this out.
Pectin is basically a long link of sugar molecules that can be found in fruits, mainly the peels and cores of fruits. You can buy commercial pectin, which is made from apples, but honestly, for most jams, you don’t need it. My nana the, queen of jam never used commercial pectin and neither have I. It’s a fun experiment playing around with different fruits to see which ones, naturally develop more pectin than others.
Boiling the fruit at a high temperature allows for the pectin to be released. With the addition of sugar and acid gel networks develop, when the jam starts to cool, they trap the water which makes the jam become this gel texture. How awesome is that! and you thought chemistry wasn’t cool! (guilty, you could often find me asleep in the back of chemistry class).
We all love sugar as much as we know too much of it is bad for us, we love it! Especially when it comes jam you want it to be sweet. I’m not much of a sweet tooth gal but, I do prefer my jam sweet.
Not only does sugar add flavour but it also plays an important part in helping jam set. Sugar acts as a mate for pectin by drawing water to itself, which helps the pectin do its gelling thing. Sugar also acts as a preservative to help keep your jam yummy for longer.
Acid is the 3rd mate in the equation, the acid also helps the pectin do its thing. Its kind of like Pectin is Beyonce and sugar and, acid is Kelly and Michelle, the Destiney child of the jam world.
For a science reason that I don’t know how to explain pectin needs a more acidic environment to be able to do its gelling thing. The most common way to do this is to add citric acid such as lemon juice.
How to make apricot jam...
Now that we got the fun science stuff behind us, we can get into the how-to stuff. The best part about jam is that you don’t actually have to do that much, the jam basically does it for you. I’ll break it down for you:
Slice your apricots in half de-stone and chuck into a large, wide saucepan, add a splash of water just a splash maybe like 2tbsp. Start to cook on medium heat stirring occasionally, making sure the fruit doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Once the fruit starts to become soft and has released most of its liquid add in the sugar, the lemon juice and 1tbps apple cider vinegar and stir. Keep stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved heat the jam up until it hits boiling point. The sweet spot is 104 degrees celsius for the pectin to become jelly. Let boil for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Towards the end of the boil stir in the lemon thyme.
To check if your jam has hit the sweet spot, you can do the wrinkle test. Put a saucer in the freezer for a couple of minutes, so it’s super cold and put some of the jam mixture on to the saucer or small plate. Run your finger through, if it's at your desired thickness you’re done. If it’s not, keep boiling for a little longer.
Once your jam has reached setting point, pour it into sterilised jars, seal and let cool down completely, the jam will set in the jars as it cools.
Enjoy your homemade jam on your favourite bread, over porridge in the morning on a cracker however you like to enjoy your jam. These also make great gifts for your mates or the fam!
Tips and tricks.
- Apricots are naturally lower in pectin so they naturally will take longer to thicken up.
- The key is to keep your jam on a rolling boil for 30 minutes, stirring is crucial to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
- The perfect way to use up the fruit you may have lying around.
- Sterilise your jars and your lids and let air dry. This is very important so that your jam will last longer.
- It’s best to do homemade Jams in small batches, this recipe will make about 3 jars depending on how big or small your jars are.
- If you’re not sure if your jam is ready, do the wrinkle test.
Let me know if you make this jam, it's so good and the lemon thyme adds a unique flavour.
Give it a whirl i'm sure you'll fall in love with jam making just like me and my nanna.
Thanks friends and don't forget to keep on cooking, good looking.
Love Char x
Apricot and Lemon Thyme Jam.
- 1 Kg Apricots
- 250 g Sugar
- ¼ cup Lemon Juice Freshly squeezed
- 1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 4 tbsp Fresh Lemon Thyme
- Wash, slice into halves and destone your apricots. Place into a large wide saucepan. Place on the stovetop add in a splash of water about 3 tbsps and cook until apricots on medium heat until they become mush.
- Once apricots have become mushy add in your sugar, lemon juice and ACV, stirring frequently until sugar has dissolved. Bring up to the boil you need it to reach 104°C in order for the pectin to do its thing. Keep at a rolling boil for 30 minutes. stirring frequently throughout, add in the lemon thyme at about 25 minutes into the boil.
- To check that your jam has reached setting point, place a small plate/saucer in the freezer for a couple of minutes so it's super cold place a teaspoon of jam on to the plate and run your finger through it if it wrinkles and is a jam like consistency your jam is ready. If not continue to boil for a bit longer.
- Once your jam has reached setting point take it off the heat and pour into sterilised jars, seal immediately and let cool.
- The jam should keep for ages unopened if you sterilised the jars well. Once opened keep in the fridge and consume within 2 weeks.
- IMPORTANT - make sure to sterilise your jars and lids well and let them air dry this will help to keep your kam freshers for longer and avoid unwanted bacteria growth in your jam.
- Apricots do have a lower level of pectin than other fruits so the cooking time may be slightly longer depending on how ripe your apricots are. If in doubt do the wrinkle test.