The other day, as we were cleaning up from the farmers’ market, I got a little too enthusiastic about the apricots. Maybe I brought home one pint, maybe I brought home three; it doesn’t matter – there were just too many to handle. You see, back on the farm, we used to have an apricot tree. It was my second favorite tree in our yard, the first being a maple tree whose branches and limbs had conveniently grown into a seat-like structure, perfect for little Kara to climb up with her books.
The apricot tree, though, well, let me tell you: the apricot tree had a little swing dangling from one of its branches. The apricot tree had a lot of leaves, which come fall time, could be easily swept with all the other leaves into the perfect jumping pile.
The apricot tree was the tree we used to make homemade ice cream, by filling a few grocery bags with ice and salt and placing our ice cream concoction in a resealable bag nestled inside the ice, slinging the whole thing over a branch, and pushing it back and forth. (Science!) Most importantly, the apricot tree had apricots. Sometimes they were a little spotty, sometimes wormy, but those apricots will always be my favorite.
You might be able to understand, then, why I became so enthusiastic about the apricots at market. I wanted something simple to preserve them a little longer and looked no further than the Russians. (I knew they would have something for me.) One of my favorite things about living in Russia was tea time, which was basically all the time. When you have tea, you must have a cookie or something sweet. And if you have tea and cookies, you should probably also have a little dish of homemade jam and use its syrup to sweeten your tea. Or you should just eat the jam with a spoon. And if you eat the jam with a spoon, you might quickly eat a whole jar. If you eat a whole jar, you’ll likely clamor for the recipe, and even if you get the recipe, and even if what you make is pretty decent, the magic of that jam in that tea with those cookies might always be lost. (This, I am sure, is what would have happened if the mouse had been given tea and jam with his cookie.) All will not be lost, though, because one day, when you least expect it, you’ll come across a recipe that you know is just the one for which you were always searching.
Apricot and Blueberry Preserves
adapted, barely, from here
Note: After I had prepared my apricots and blueberries, I discovered I was out of white sugar. Not to be outwitted again by the elusive Russian preserve, I improvised and used a combination of maple syrup and brown sugar, whose roots, I feel, are decidedly North American. Maybe I should call these Americanized Russian Preserves. Try it either way.
- 3/4 pound apricots, halved and stones removed (don’t bother peeling, unless you’re feeling ambitious)
- 1/4 pound blueberries, rinsed and removed of renegade stems
- 1 cup brown sugar + 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Combine sugar, maple syrup, and two cups of water in a pot and heat over medium-high until sugar dissolves. Add apricots and blueberries.
2. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower to a simmer and keep simmering for about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste as you go along, and add more maple syrup if you think you’d like it sweeter. To test for doneness, spoon a bit of syrup onto a small plate or bowl and place in the freezer for a few minutes. Take out of the freezer and run your finger through the syrup – if it leaves a clear line, it’s done. You can also stop cooking earlier if you want a thinner syrup. If you overcook or the mixture seems like it needs more liquid, add more water until it’s at your desired consistency. Just remember the preserves will thicken a bit as they cool, so don’t be worried if they seem a little thin while still hot.
3. When done cooking, transfer preserves to a jar. You’re supposed to allow this to cool to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator, but it was late and I was sleepy so I just put them right on in. As far as I can tell, it didn’t make a difference.
Yield: about a pint
The preserves will keep for quite a while (a month or two) in the refrigerator. You could also freeze them to make them last forever (…or at least, a year or two). I like these preserves with unsweetened tea, next to lemon bars, on top of granola and yogurt, or with a spoon.