Apricot Vanilla Jam
Apricots are a plentiful fruit, and unlike many jams and jellies, they do not require pectin to set up, making it a frugal choice for jam making.
Makes about 5 1/2 pints
Wash and cut apricots. Discard pits and any bad spots.
Crush apricots with a potato masher, or blend them in a blender.
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot (about twice as tall as your ingredients, and jam gets very foamy while cooking). Bring mixture slowly to a boil.
Cook rapidly to gelling point (jam will drop off a metal spoon in sheets, or will set up on a cold plate. If it drips off in drops, it is not ready yet). Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Turn off heat. Ladle hot jam into jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Add sterile lids and rings.
Process jam 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
* You can leave out the vanilla to make regular apricot jam.
I get pure vanilla extract for an incredibly low price at Sam's Club.
I use apricots from my tree to make these. Apricots grow the most abundantly of all of my fruit trees. I have had many readers tell me that apricots are extremely plentiful where they live, and that there are lots of opportunities to glean apricots from people who would otherwise have them eaten by birds or left to rot. Look for trees that are plentiful that aren't being used in your neighborhood, and ask the owners if you can pick them! (You will most likely get a yes, for they will be relieved to not have to clean up the mess of lots of dropped apricots, and will be happy that they are not going to waste). Bring baskets with handles and a ladder for picking. Bring along some boxes as well.
Apricots (especially more ripe ones) will go bad quickly, so don't let them sit piled on top of each other for long. It's worth the time to stay up late after you've picked them and make some jam, freeze apricots for smoothies, and dry apricots for baking and snacking.
If you have an apricot tree, be sure to thin it when the apricots are about the size of a dime. This means, quite simply, to pull off the apricots that are too close together to get large. Space the apricots 3-4 inches apart for maximum size, or you'll have tiny apricots.
Un-thinned apricot on the left; thinned apricot on the right. Notice how the pits are the same size. Thinning gives you more fruit.