Saturday, July 4, 2015

Apricot Jam, 2015 edition

Pre-start kitchen
 And so it came to pass that on the third day of the seventh month of the year 2015 Gradka awoke her factory floor workers at 5:00 a.m. but, rather than spring into action as planned, they gave her some canned and went back to sleep. But an hour later, I got up and while still not exactly springing into action, I did put on some clothes and hang out some laundry. Then I carried up from the basement the jars and the canning pot and from the refrigerator extracted 24 pounds of apricots and a bowl of lemons and from the cupboards fetched down the bag of sugar and the coffee and the French press and the tea pot and the tea, and, in general, got ready to start on jam. 

At 8:00, with Scott also awake and caffeinated, work did indeed commence, using the Shiptonesque recipe scrawled on an envelope that some day I should copy to something more permanent.

We made four batches in two rounds of two. The first set was four pounds of apricots in each pot; the second round a slightly trickier five pounds in one and six pounds in the other. The mathematically astute will notice that you get about 19 pounds of useful apricot from a 24-pound box of apricots. Not that I actually weighed the contents of the box. I’m just shy of that obsessive. (But just wait.) 

After bringing to a boil and getting to a syrupy state two and two-thirds cup of sugar and half a cup of water, add two pounds of apricot and cook until mostly falling apart and somewhat reduced.
First 2 pounds of apricots, sugar, and water
Add the other two pounds of apricot and continue to cook down. When it seems about right (about an hour of cooking time total), add four tablespoons of lemon juice. Allow to cook another five minutes, then start ladling into prepared jars. There are never any photos of this stage as I’m too excited about ladling while everything is still properly hot to stop the proceedings and take photos. It’s usually a little messy too. 
Quitting time
 80 degrees out the kitchen window
This year we were a bit more scientific than some previous years, in part because there was some concern we didn’t have enough jars and didn’t want to start cooking jam we’d have no way to preserve. As a result, I can say that the first three batches figured out to 13.5 ounces of jam per pound of fruit while the final batch, somewhat worryingly, was 16 ounces of final product per pound;  the unit cost, inclusive of some sloppy assumptions about electricity and water, were about .25 per ounce, not including labor.

Madame Gradka maintained an air of indifference when we gave her the numbers, but we think she was secretly pleased. It’s not every year that she joins us for our post-production run snack break.

So, who wants jam? ( Seriously, tell me. We need to unload this stuff.)


  1. The MacKenzie Dachshund Farm would like to place an order for a jar of Madame Gradka's Mostly Scientifically Accurate Apricot Jam, and would like to engage the Eli Courier Service for delivery. And she is greatly impressed by your ability to arise at a reasonable hour. Well done!

  2. The initial and subsequent tests at the Factory suggests that it may be the best apricot product yet produced at Madame Gradka's. It's particularly fine with fresh chevre on rosemary crackers. If I can successfully print labels today, you might receive a jar tomorrow, depending on the courier service. Note that return of empty jars is always appreciated as it helps to keep our costs down.

    1. The proprietor of the MacKenzie Dachshund Farm is now in receipt of a jar of scientifically accurate apricot jam, and she is most eager to try it out, although she expressed mild disappointment at the absence of fresh chevre and rosemary crackers in her package, a combination which sounds truly delightful. She supposes she must forage for said items on her own, and will gamely do so, as she wishes to do full justice to Madame Gradka's culinary skill. Thank you kindly!

    2. I understand Scott explained to you how supplying chevre and crackers would add to the operating costs. Of course, if we had our own goats . . . (Clearly Scott didn't think through the ramifications of his comments properly.) I'll say that Mme Gradka's is likely also quite fine on toast or plain bread and butter. But I'm eager to learn the results of your own experiments!

    3. City goats! What a scathingly brilliant idea.

      Meanwhile, I am now wondering why I don't cook breakfast every morning instead of just throwing a bowl of oatmeal in the microwave, for I have just finished a delightful repast. I felt that Madame G's superior jam deserved something better than Quaker could provide, so I whipped up an omelette with minced onion, extra-sharp cheddar from the farmer's market, and a dollop of guacamole. The jam went on a slice of toasted nine-grain bread. It made for the perfect combination of savory with sweet.

      The jam was indeed as advertised -- the best batch yet! How will you ever top it?