As we near the end of summer, we approach the end of the growing season for stonefruit. While this is a bittersweet farewell, I rejoice in the fact that it is time to make my favorite jam of all: David Lebovitz’s small-batch apricot jam.
The last few weeks have been a race to get my hands on the dwindling supply of apricots before they are gone for good until next season. Once an apricot reaches its bright orangish, peachy glow of ripeness, it immediately begins to rot–so this extremely perishable food must be handled with some swiftness or otherwise eaten immediately.
I chose this jam recipe because of the small yield, but also because of the limited amount of sugar and the exclusion of other flavor additives. This recipe is all about letting the apricots do the talking. Apricots are a perfect fruit, in my opinion. If you agree, then this recipe is for you!
How to Eat Apricot Jam
Tart, tangy, sweet, and floral, this jam is a happy addition to:
- buttered toast
- flaky croissants
- vanilla ice cream with toasted pistachios
- full-fat yogurt
- oatmeal or another porridge
- glaze tarts, cobblers, pies, and cakes
Or, use it to glaze pork chops or chicken breasts, for a savory option. Throw in some rosemary, thyme, or another herb to provide some depth!
What is Noyaux?
While you process your ripe apricots, you will end up with a pile of pits next to your cutting board. These are not simply trash to be thrown away, however! If you have a nutcracker or a hammer, there’s a hidden treasure within those tough pits–the “almond” within, known as noyaux. These nutty kernels are known for their pleasant, almond-y flavor. It is customary in some places in Europe to crack open a peach or apricot pit and place the noyaux in each jam jar before canning.
But be aware: the noyaux contains a compound called amygdalin that, when mixed with water, creates a small amount of prussic acid. (Another name for prussic acid is hydrogen cyanide…yes, like the poison!)
Never fear–a person weighing 150 pounds could crunch through over two pounds of noyaux before reaching toxic levels in their body. So, unless you plan on going around crunching peach pits all day long, adding a single kernel to a jar of jam is a safe option. Adding noyaux for a flavor complexity boost can take your small-batch apricot jam to the next level!
If you are concerned about the amygdalin, roasting the noyaux at 350°F for 15-20 minutes neutralizes the toxin.
How to Use Noyaux
Other than using noyaux in stonefruit preserves, there are a number of other common applications for this hidden treasure. Perhaps the most widely practiced of these is making noyaux “almond” extract.
Known for its complex, bitter almond flavor, the simple process of making noyaux extract requires more patience than technical skill. Simply add toasted (or untoasted) kernels to your choice of alcohol in a sealed jar and wait 3 months or so before straining! Leaving the jar at room temperature will speed up the extraction process.
What’s the Difference Between Almonds and Noyaux?
The truth is, almonds are very similar to the kernels found within the pits of stone fruits. Almonds and noyaux are both drupes in the prunus family. In fact, almonds grow a greenish fruit outside their shell that looks very similar to an unripe apricot.
And yes, this does mean that almonds contain a small amount of cyanide–but not enough to cause concern. Unless you plan on eating over 50 ounces (over three pounds) of almonds in one day, you can snack without worry.
Where Can I Buy Apricots?
We are approaching the end of the stonefruit growing season, so if you are hoping to crack into a jar of apricot preserves this winter, time is of the essence!
Look at your local farmer’s market, or check out this awesome tool from LocalHarvest! Chances are, you are closer to real people growing real apricots than you might think. 🙂
How to Make Small-Batch Apricot Jam
Set aside a few hours for this process. Put on some relaxing music, and enjoy it!
First, gather your ingredients:
Halve and quarter your apricots into desired sizes. I like chunky preserves, so I left some large pieces in my processed fruit. If you so desire, now is the moment to roast your noyaux, crack open the pits, and arrange in jam jars.
Add water to the fruit and cook over medium heat until the fruit is heated through and begins to break down.
Add sugar and continue to simmer over medium-low heat until the mixture is reduced and passes the “wrinkle” test.
Stir lemon juice and amaretto liqueur into the warm jam and ladle into sterilized jars. (To sterilize jars, completely submerge in boiling water with lids and rings for 10 minutes. Pluck jars and lids out with long grill tongs and drain on a clean towel.) Loosely screw the tops on the apricot preserves, and completely submerge in boiling water for another 10 minutes.
Work in batches if you must to ensure jars are completely submerged. Remove the jars with tongs and allow to cool to room temperature for 12 hours. You will hear the “ping” of your lids sealing to the jars–a sign of success! Press on the tops of the lids to ensure they’ve fully adhered to the jars. For lids that don’t seal, jam is best eaten within 4 weeks. Jam also freezes beautifully, so for any jars that don’t make the cut for long-term storage, feel free to transfer your jam to the freezer after it cools to room temperature!
What If I Need All My Jars to Seal?
As you can see, the leftmost jar of the four didn’t seal. I will be devouring it over the course of the coming week, so no harm, no foul! If, however, you are banking on every single jar sealing up for long-term storage, you can always try re-boiling the jar for another 10 minutes.
It is always a good idea to sterilize more lids and jars than you think you will need. Sometimes all it takes to seal a jar is using a different lid.
Using brand new lids for your canning endeavors ensures you get a good seal on your jars every time. It’s great to reuse lids for canning projects as much as possible, but over time they do wear out. New lids are available for separate purchase at most grocery stores or online.
Is There Another Way to Sterilize My Jars?
Yes. You can also sterilize your jars in a clean oven. Set the temperature to 200°F and bake jars and lids for 20 minutes on a cookie sheet or directly on the rack.
David Lebovitz’s Small-Batch Apricot Jam
David Lebovitz's Small-Batch Apricot Jam (Low Sugar)
- heavy bottomed dutch oven
- 2 1/4 lbs fresh apricots, pits removed and cut in quarters
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 tsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp kirsch or amaretto liqueur
- Wash the apricots, cut them in half, and remove the pits. Cut apricots into quarters if you like smaller pieces of preserved fruit. If desired, crack open the pits with a nut cracker or hammer and place one kernel in each jam jar.
- Place a small plate in the freezer.
- Place water and apricots in the heavy-bottomed dutch oven and cover. Cook over medium heat until apricots are cooked through, 5-7 minutes.
- Once apricots are cooked through, remove the lid and add the sugar, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the mixture has significantly reduced, 30-45 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The jam should look fairly thick and jelly-like.
- Retrieve the plate from the freezer and dollop a small portion of jam on it. Return the plate to the freezer and wait for 1-2 minutes. Remove the plate from the freezer again and drag your finger through the chilled jam. If it piles up and wrinkles as your finger moves through it, the jam is ready for canning. If it's not quite ready, continue to cook over medium-low heat, testing for doneness in the same fashion.
- When the jam is reduced, remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and kirsch. Ladle into sterilized jars. Screw lids on loosely and completely submerge jars in boiling water for 10 minutes, working in batches if necessary. Remove jars from boiling water and allow to cool to room temperature. You should hear a pinging sound as the jars seal. Alternatively, allow cooked jam to cool to room temperature and place in fridge or freezer. Jam placed in the freezer will keep up to 1 year. Jam placed in the freezer keeps up to 4 weeks.
- Enjoy jam with toast, plain croissants, oats or porridge, yogurt, or ice cream.