I love the flavor of apricots, it’s so similar to peaches but with a zing of tartness that is perfect for jam! I have been making small-batch jams almost exclusively lately, it is just such a time saver. This small batch apricot jam is my current favorite jam, it is so good on toast and scones, I haven’t tried it yet, but I think a quick sauce made with the jam and vinegar would be great on pork or chicken.
Making Small Batch Apricot Jam without Pectin
I have always used a 10-inch stock-pot to make my small batch jams because it had a large surface area and worked well with a relatively small volume of jam, but this year I have been using my Lodge Enamaled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, and I am very happy with the results. The dutch oven has roughly the same large surface, but the much heavier bottom protects jam ingredients from scorching much better than the standard stockpot.
When I am making any jam, small batch or a standard canning size recipe, I always use a candy thermometer to determine if it has reached the setting point or not. They are pretty inexpensive to pick up, and I love the accuracy of the thermometer. But if you have ripe apricots you want to use right now, and don’t want to run to the store, or wait for 2 day Prime delivery don’t worry I’ve got you covered!
Jam Wrinkle Test
You can also check for the setting point of jams and jellies using the “wrinkle” test. Before cooking the jam put a couple of small plates in the freezer. Once your jam has boiled for about 17 minutes, take the pot off the heat and carefully spoon a little jam onto one of the cold plates. Let it stand for a minute then push the drop of jam with your fingernail, if the surface of the jam wrinkles then it has set, if it is still quite liquid then put the pan back on the heat and boil the jam for another 3 to 5 minutes before testing again.
This apricot jam cooked down much more quickly than a standard jam recipe. It is easier to get the jam to 220° degrees in smaller batches. One of my favorite things about small batch jam making is the shorter cook time creates a jam with outstanding color. This apricot jam had a beautiful glowing color. Yes, past-tense we ate it all already. In hindsight canning this jam was a waste of time, stored in the fridge, this jam will keep approximately 2 weeks, that is if your family doesn’t devour it within a matter of days like mine did.
I like my jam to have bright flavors, instead of being cloyingly sweet. And this apricot jam is the perfect balance of sweet to tangy for me. But we all have different preferences, so before the jam comes up to a rolling boil, give your jam quick taste, and adjust it as needed by adding 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time until it reaches your desired sweet & tangy level. It’s kind of like making lemonade: you know when it tastes right, perfectly balanced between sweet and tart.
Tips and hints for Making Small Batch Jam without Pectin
- Use a Large Stock Pot or Dutch Oven
I like using a 10-inch stock-pot or dutch oven because of the large surface area to a relatively small volume of jam. The jam cooks much more quickly and it is easier to get the jam to 220° degrees in smaller batches, so you can often skip the addition of pectin.
- Use a candy thermometer.
When you’re making jam with traditional amounts of sugar, you’re aiming to cook it to 220°F. That’s the temperature at which sugar forms a gel and can bond with the pectin (whether it’s naturally occurring in the fruit or you’ve added it). Monitoring the temperature can give you confirmation that you’re on the right track.
- Watch the way the jam drips.
Swirl your spatula through your cooking jam, hold it up over the pot, and watch how it falls. If the jam runs right off the spoon and looks thin and runny, it’s not done yet. But, if it forms thick droplets that don’t immediately fall off, it is either nearing completion or is done.
- 2 pounds of pitted and chopped apricots about 24 medium-sized apricots
- 3 Tbsp. bottled lemon juice such as ReaLemon
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 3 Tbsp. 100% apple juice*
- Add apricots to a Dutch oven fitted with a candy thermometer, with the lemon, sugar and apple juice. Cook on medium-low, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the jam to a full boil, stirring constantly. A full boil is a boil that cannot be stirred down. You may need to adjust your heat level once it reaches to a full boil to prevent scorching, I usually have to turn down the heat slightly.
- Carefully stir constantly at a full boil for 17 to 18 minutes, or until the jam reaches 220°F. If you are using the wrinkle test to check the setting cook, test at 17 minutes. If the jam mounds and wrinkles when dropped on a chilled plate and nudged with your fingernail, it’s done. If not, continue to cook, then re-test the jam until it reaches that consistency.
- Once you are satisfied with the results of the wrinkle test or your jam reaches 220°F, Skim off any foam remaining on the surface of the jam, and remove from the heat.
- Carefully, ladle the jam into three 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top. Close the jars and let the jam cool to room temperature.
- Store the jam in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
- This is a refrigerator jam and not intended to be sealed and processed for storage in the pantry. All you need is a very clean jar. Once the jam has cooked to consistency, pour into jar, let cool and refrigerate.
- Apricots are naturally low in pectin and apples and lemons are high; therefore, the apple juice and lemon add a little pectin to the jam. This provides just enough pectin for a relatively soft jam.
- I prefer bottled lemon juice because it has been uniformly acidified so that it has a consistent and dependable acid level, which results in consistent and reliable results every time you make jam.
- Slightly under-ripe apricots work best, but if all you have are ripe and over-ripe apricots, don’t let that stop you from making a jar of this absolutely delicious jam.
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Recipe Adapted From: Food & Wine
Do you enjoy making jam and canning? Check out my other recipes and start stocking your pantry and fridge with homemade preserves!