First, I put half of the apricots in a large plastic bowl in the sink and washed them. Then I transferred the apricots to various small strainers, I don’t have a big one, so I used 3 small ones. While they were in the strainers, I pitted and chopped them into quarters.
Then, I put them in the large 8 cups glass bowls, and put ¼ of the bottled lemon juice over them, mixing it around to coat, to prevent them turning brown. I would then put the cover on the bowl and put it in the fridge. I repeated this process 2 more times until I had about 20 cups of apricots.
Having the apricots pre-portioned out really helped with the canning process. I took 8 cups of apricots and put them in a Dutch oven (Teflon really helps with the cleanup process, but you can use any type pan) and let them cook down on medium heat. Until there aren’t any chunks, stirring every now then, make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. If you feel it starting to stick, lower your heat.
Making the Jam
Before your mixture comes to a boil, you want to figure out how much sugar and pectin you are going to use. I went to a dozen sites trying to figure this out, and even the inside of the pectin canister was cryptic. Every site I went to mentioned using more sugar than apricots. After my 8 cups boiled down to 6 cups, according to some of the sites, I was supposed to use 7 cups of sugar… Yikes! No way! I opted for the “low sugar” option of 4 cups of sugar and 5 tbsp of pectin. From how I understood the pectin canister, I was supposed to use 1 ½ tbsp per 2 cups of fruit mixture. So I had 6 cups of fruit = 4 ½ tbsp., BUT all of the sites mentioned using 20% increase, so I upped it to 5 tbsps.
My mixture was now boiling, and I could not stir it away. I let it boil for a couple of mins, while I took 5 tbsp. and mixed it with ¼ cup of sugar and then put it on top of the mixture and stirred it in. Then returning the pot to medium to high heat, bring it to a full boil, and let it boil for 10 mins. Stir often to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom and burns. Again, the boil should not stir away. Add remaining 3 ¾ cups of sugar and bring it to a boil again, but this time it only needs to boil for a minute or two.
Using a metal spoon kept in ice water (or if you kitchen was as hot as mine with all of these pans boiling water and things, keep the spoon in the fridge), scoop up some jam in the spoon, and let it rest to room temp. (about 10 mins). Depending on how the mixture sets up, determine if you are ready for the next step. If it does not set up or get thick, then you need to add more pectin in ½ tbsp. increments and return the mixture to a boil for a minute before doing the metal spoon test for every added ½ tbsp added.
Preserving Apricot Jam
Now, your jam is ready to be put in to jars. Fill them to within 1/4 inch of the top, wipe any spilled jam off the top, seat the lid, and tighten the ring around them. Then, put them into the boiling water canner. This is where the jar tongs and lid lifter come in really handy!
Keep the jars covered with at least 1 inch of water. Keep the water boiling. In general, boil them for 5 minutes. I say “in general” because you have to process (boil) them longer at higher altitudes than sea level, or if you use larger jars, or if you did not sterilize the jars and lids right before using them. The directions inside every box of pectin will tell you exactly. The directions on the pectin tend to be pretty conservative.
Lift the jars out of the water, and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight). You can then remove the rings if you like. Once cooled, they’re ready to store. I find they last up to 12 months. But after about 6 to 8 months, they get darker in color and start to get runny. They still are safe to eat, but the flavor and texture aren’t as good. So, plan eat them in the first 6 months after you prepare them!
***While researching the sugar and pectin ratio issue, I saw a way to make the jam “all natural” by using fruit juice instead of using sugar. So, for the last batch, I only had 4 cups of raw apricots and opted to use 100% apple juice instead of sugar. According to the 1 ½ tbsp. per 2 cups, I needed 3 tbsps of pectin. The 4 cups boiled down to 2 cups of mixture, only 1 ½ cups of juice, and 3 tbsps of pectin. Then, I followed the same directions. Mix the pectin with ½ cup of juice, bring to a boil for 10 mins. Add remaining cup of juice, and bring to another boil for a min.
Page One – Ingredients for Canned Apricot Jam