Local apricots have a fleeting presence where I live. Some people are surprised they’re grown here at all. That’s why, at this time of year, I typically invoke “fil mish mish,” the Egyptian phrase that literally says, “in the time of the apricots,” but means “wishful thinking” in slang. I went to the farmers market with the mission to find apricots for a terrific Apricot Vanilla Jam that I made last year. But then, side-by-side, sat a pint of sour cherries. Last chance sour cherries. Only a tiny amount, but a must-have. Right there, on the spot, Apricot Sour Cherry Jam was born. As I discovered, sour cherries tart up apricots in much the same way as currants. And, as luck would have it, last chance red currants were available at my next stop, a local farm market. Wow. Jam heaven.
I made Apricot Currant Preserves last year and it was a huge hit. This year’s version pureed the two fruits together to create a uniform jammy consistency. Last year, I separately cooked the juices, which allowed the apricot slices to be suspended in a clear, jewel-like liquid. They’re equally great.
For the Apricot Sour Cherry Jam, I followed my preliminary preparation steps for Apricot Jam and for Sour Cherry Jam independently and then combined them. I mixed the apricots, a little water, lemon juice and sugar and set them aside to macerate with a muslin bag filled with lemon seeds and peel. After a couple of hours, I brought the mixture to a boil and let it cool. For the cherries, I pitted them and placed them in a pan with lemon juice and a similar lemon-filled muslin bag, and boiled them until the juices released. I then measured the yield and added a proportional amount of sugar. Eventually the two fruit preparations were combined and let to sit in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, I squeezed and discarded the muslin bags and cooked the jam.
True confessions: I forgot to add sugar to the cherries, but I had used more sugar than I like with the apricots so I ignored it. With ample lemon and sugar, this jam should be safe to can and keep for a year. Acid and sugar are preservatives but, for preserving purposes, I may have undershot the sugar. This produced a slightly tart, beautifully colored concoction. I canned it for sure, but have labeled it for eating in a few months’ time. Honestly, it is so delicious that it will probably be gone tomorrow.
Apricot and Sour Cherry Jam
2 lb fresh apricots
2 c sugar
½ c water
Juice of half a lemon, pits and peel reserved
1 dry pint sour cherries, washed and pitted
Sugar (about ½ c)
Juice of half a lemon, pits and peel reserved
Prepare the apricots. Wash them and remove the pits. Cut them into 1/2-inch chunks and place them in a bowl with the sugar, water and lemon juice. Tie the reserved lemon seeds and peel in a muslin sack (the lemon pits and peel will release their pectin into the fruit to help the jam gel) and immerse it in the apricot mixture. Let the apricots macerate at room temperature for an hour or two, stirring occasionally to make sure that the sugar is dissolving. Place the apricots and their liquid to a saucepan and bring just to a bare simmer. Pour the mixture back into the apricot bowl. Let cool.
Prepare the sour cherries. Pit and coarsely chop the cherries and place them in a saucepan with the lemon juice. Tie the reserved lemon seeds and peel in a muslin sack (the lemon pits and peel will release their pectin into the fruit to help the jam gel) and immerse it in the cherry mixture. Bring the cherries to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes or until the cherry flesh is completely soft. Remove the muslin bag and pour the cherries and their liquid into a large measuring cup. Add ½ – ¾ of that amount (for me ½ c) of sugar and return the mixture, including the muslin sack, to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Combine the sour cherries and apricots and, when cool, cover them with crinkled parchment and once cooled, let sit for 6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
When ready to make the preserves, prepare the canner, jars and lids if you’re going to process them via water bath. Place a saucer into the freezer for testing the gel.
Place the fruit mixture into a wide saucepan, bring to a boil and cook until the temperature approaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer and/or the liquid tests for gel when a drop is placed on the frozen saucer. Do not overcook. Apricots foam a lot so you can add a dab of butter to the pot to control that, or plan on skimming the finished preserves before jarring them. Remove the sack of seeds. Depending on the firmness of the fruit, the mixture might be smooth or chunky. If you want a smooth jam, use an immersion blender or whisk to break up any chunks.
Ladle into hot prepared jars and cap them. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.
Makes about 6 four-ounce jars.