My adventure with the lemony herbs of summer continues with lemon thyme. Recent success adding lemon verbena to blueberries made me look around my garden when I came back from the market with several pounds of local rosy apricots. Lemon thyme was rampant, planted as a soil-cooling device in terra cotta pots full of peppers with exotic names like Bishop’s Crown, Chimayo, Pilange, Bulgarian Carrot (the hottest little carrot-lookalike you’ll ever taste), among others. All this in a season when I struggle to keep my garden watered.
I’ve been using lemon thyme like I normally would parsley. Its woodiness has somehow allowed it to thrive in our hot and rainless summer days and cool nights, while parsley lies exhausted from wilting.
In this jam, lemon juice cuts the sweetness of the fruit and boosts the gel, while the thyme adds an herbal counterpoint. I added sprigs of lemon thyme to the apricots from the beginning and fished them out before the final boil. If you want to add a small sprig to the finished jam, dunk it in boiling water first, and submerge it in the jam, using a spoon handle or chopstick to remove any air bubbles.
Apricot Jam with Lemon Thyme
2 lb apricots, pitted and cut into ½-inch pieces
1½ c sugar
Juice of 1 lemon, seeds and peel reserved and tied in a small muslin sack
4-5 sprigs lemon thyme, 2-3 inches long
Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl and let sit in a relatively cool place for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
In a large heavy pot, bring the mixture just to a simmer and return it to the bowl to cool. Crumble a piece of parchment paper over the top (to minimize evaporation) and let sit for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Cover with plastic wrap if your refrigerator has other contents that exude odors.
When ready to make the jam, if using a water bath canning method of preserving it, prepare the jars and lids. Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the gel.
Remove the lemon thyme sprigs and the sack of lemon seeds and peel and pour the apricot mixture into a large heavy pan with a wide bottom. Bring to a boil and cook over medium high heat, stirring to prevent the mixture from scorching, until it tests for gel, about 5-7 minutes. (It’s gelled when a drop of liquid placed on the frozen saucer is wrinkly to the touch.)
Ladle into hot jars, remove any air bubbles with a spoon handle or chopstick, clean the rims and cap with a two-part lid. (if you’re adding a tiny sprig of thyme to each jar, dunk the thyme in boiling water to wilt and submerge it in the jam, taking care to release any surrounding air bubbles.) Process in a water bath for 10 minutes after the water boils. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.
Makes approximately 6 four-ounce jars.