A Provence Summer Preserve: Heady perfumed lavender fields, rolling hills of thyme and oregano, hot sun, dusty paths, aching backs and grape stained fingers, hawks sitting on hay bales, the distant throb of a tractor, warm hands and faces, crusty bread, herb scented rillettes, red wine and crisp rose wine, straw baskets, fields of happy sunflowers, gaily coloured fabric table cloths, wooden handled knives, old chipped glasses, straw, floppy cotton hats, sweet peaches, furry apricots, ripe golden melons, juicy red watermelons, black dusky olives, bitter green olives, salty anchovies, charred sardines, salted butter, crisp flaky pastries, goat’s cheese, glossy tapenade, a tian of purple aubergines, stuffed courgettes, ripe, juicy tomatoes, pungent basil leaves, grass-green olive oil, cotton hammocks, old metal chairs, rickety wooden tables, faded oil cloth, red hot sun, olive trees, dusky pink tamarisk, pastis, the clink of boule on boule, couronne bread and apricot jam…
This is an easy jam to make, what I call a French set, not the hard stiff jelly that is often beloved in the British kitchen, but an unctuous soft fruity set, where the apricots almost bust out of the jar. The colour is glorious and it’s like a spoon of sunshine. Try this jam with fresh yoghurt, spread on croissants, brioche or fresh toast or make little jam tarts, spread on a freshly made sponge cake, it’s versatile and utterly scrumptious…
How to make the best French apricot jam recipe ever!
Makes 1.8 to 2 kilos jam (31/2 to 41/2 lbs)
Prep time:24 hours
Cook time: 20 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegetarian
1200g fresh apricots (stoned and cut in half)
1 kilo white sugar
Juice of 1 large lemon
Sprigs of lavender (flower heads, free of insecticide)
1. Layer the apricots and sugar in a large preserving pan, add the juice of the lemon and leave overnight.
2. When you are ready to make the jam, place two or three saucers into the freezer beforehand – to check the set.
3. Place the pan over a low to medium heat, and allow the sugar to dissolve slowly….as soon as the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up and bring the jam to a rolling boil and allow to boil for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring it every now and then, until a set has been achieved.
4. After about 5 minutes, check for a set, take one of the cold saucers out of the freezer, take the jam off the heat and place a teaspoon of jam on the saucer, allow it to cool for a few seconds, then push it with your finger: if a crinkly skin has formed on the jam, then it has set. If it hasn’t set, boil it again for another 5 minutes and do another test.
5. When you have a set, remove the preserve from the heat and allow it to settle for 5 minutes before pouring it into the warmed sterilised jars. Place a sprig of fresh lavender on top of the jam and seal while still warm and label the jars when cold.
Karen Burns-Booth is a free-lance food & travel writer at “Lavender and Lovage”.