Underappreciated fruits and vegetables will always have a special place in my heart. Rhubarb, nettles, quince: all these things, so tasty when cooked, used to be very popular until they got shouldered aside by easier pleasures that didn’t sting the unwary picker into welts, or weren’t so sour or astringent at first bite as to make you wince. Artichokes’ dip-scooping leaves were probably its saving grace. But for its use as a nifty delivery system for melted butter and lemon mayonnaise, it would be a forgotten thistle today.

Apricots, while more accessible, still have a certain forgotten-fruit quality to them. Just as quince gets described as apple’s tough, weird older sister, so apricots are often just a placeholder for peach-lovers, something sweet and orange with a pit that will do until the real goodies come along.

But apricots are good for cooking in a way that peaches aren’t, their flavor intensifying into an ineffable tangy sweetness that leans just right against a crumbly, buttery short crust or a piece of whole-grain toast, especially one spread with mild fresh chevre. Too often, though, all that the marketplace offers is the big bland Patterson, so smooth-skinned, so bright, so uniform and so utterly dull.

What you really want, especially for jam, are Blenheims, also called Royal Blenheims. You have to trust in these, because they’re not so pretty. Mostly they’re small, often green-shouldered, often freckly. At peak ripeness, they’re almost deliquescent, their pulp turning to jam right inside the skin.

But, oh, what juicy, sticky-dripping flavor! Slurpy-good right off the tree, they’re sublime for jam. I like to use the same overnight-sugar macerating technique as for strawberries, although these apricots don’t throw off enough liquid to make straining necessary. Instead, they subside gracefully into a pool of satiny slush that’s part pulp, part skin, part juice, and all divine.

apricot jam

Being wildly uncommercial—too small, too funny-looking, too mushy, too short a season—Blenheims have to be hunted out, either from soft-hearted orchardists or friends with an old tree in the backyard. Everything Under the Sun (the folks with the “Sampling is Mandatory-We’re Watching!” sign) at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market had them last week, and probably this week, but not for much longer. Carpe diem! Get out your jars!

Apricot Jam
Of all the jams I make, this one remains my favorite. Letting the fruit and sugar macerate together before cooking mellows the sweetness and helps thickens the final product without the need for long cooking. This preserves the fruit’s naturally vivid flavor and color.

Yield: 4 to 5 8-oz jars.
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes, plus 10-16 hours resting time
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
Total: 1 hour, plus 10-16 hours resting time

3 lb apricots
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1-2 lemons)

1. Halve apricots and pop out pits. Cut fruit into quarters if large. Toss apricots, sugar, and lemon juice together in a glass or ceramic bowl. Cover with a towel and set aside for several hours at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator. Stir occasionally to help the sugar dissolve evenly, if you feel like it.

2. When all the sugar has been dissolved, pour the mixture into a wide, heavy-bottomed nonreactive pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, stirring gently but frequently. Cook for another 8 minutes, until the fruit looks translucent and is beginning to break down. It’s easy to scorch it at this stage, so stir frequently and don’t wander off.

3. Pour mixture back into the bowl, let cool, then cover with a towel and set aside at room temperature for at least six hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

4. Return fruit mixture to the large pot. Over low heat, bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Cook for another 10-12 minutes, until fruit has mostly broken down and juices look syrupy. Scoop a small amount of juice onto a clean metal spoon. Tip the spoon sideways and let juice run off the edge. When juice has reached the jelly point, the last few drops will look thicker and run together into one viscous drop. Remove from heat. Ladle into clean, sterilized jars.

5. Set jars on a clean towel and do not touch or move them until they are completely cool. If you’re using canning jars, listen for the slurpy sucking pop of the jars vacuum-sealing. Sealed jars will keep up to 1 year in a cool, dry place. If jar isn’t sealed, store in fridge and eat within 2-3 weeks.

Recipe: Apricot Jam 4 March,2011Stephanie Rosenbaum Klassen

  • Sal

    We have Blenheims starting Friday, June 19 and running about 2 weeks:
    No pesticides and very high quality

  • Alena

    Hi there, two things, I am intrigued as to why the cooking process is in two stages. Can you explain why ? Secondly, can you convert your measurements for me into kilo/gr and ml? I look forward to trying your method out. Thanks.

  • greg

    thanks much for the recipe – just got a flat of blenheims today at the santa monica market and gonna have at it…

  • Early

    Interesting recipe. I will try it. Neved cooked in two stages before. I am always looking for new ways to make the “perfect jam”. Thanks Stephanie, guess you are the jam queen, (for now)


  • pauladawn

    Made it this last weekend,ended up with 12 pints. Gave a couple away and now I must hide the rest because everyone wants more, more, more. Best apricot flavor I have ever had in my life (and unfortunatley thats alot). Thanks

  • I just used this recipe to make jam with apricots from a tree in the middle of Chicago. Thanks for posting!

  • I was writing about my experience cooking apricot jam in Lebanon (my, what apricots!) and was looking for the type of apricots that might be substituted for in the US. Thanks to your post, I know now that I should investigate those famous blenheims. Your writing is excellent and I enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

  • I’ve had orange jam, apple jam, guava jam, strawberry jam. I’ve heard about apricot jam but haven’t really tried making it. This surely will be my experiment this weekend. Thanks for the wonderful post!

  • Kim

    I made this jam last summer with organic Blenheims from a U-Pick in Brentwood, and it was the best apricot jam EVER! Plus it was the first time I’ve ever made jam. The jam really captured the taste of fresh summer apricots. Question for you, Stephanie… besides strawberry jam, what else can you make with this overnight macerating technique? Thanks!

  • Joy

    Do you can your jam? Mine don’t vacuum shut unless I can them in a water bath. You don’t mention canning yours… Will it change the consistency?

  • Sal

    Fill hot jars( from oven @200) to within 1/8 inch of top. w\Wipe any residue from jar rim. Place hot lid and ring and tighten. Invert jars on a towel. Cover with towel. Reinvert in 30 min. Works every time never failed or spoiled.

  • Cill

    I’m assuming no, but does this recipe not call for pectin?

  • Stephanie Rosenbaum

    Thanks for reading! No, there’s no pectin added to this recipe. I’ve found that cooking in 2 stages, plus using lemon juice, is enough to make a soft-set but not runny jam. I usually avoid commercial pectin because it requires a lot of sugar to get a firm set. I prefer a tart, very fruity jam, and I don’t mind if it’s softer than store-bought if I can avoid adding tons of extra sugar.

  • Katie Albert

    I am making this right now….plan to do a water bath in the morning. This is good, yes?

  • Great recipe… easy to follow and the results are utterly sublime. I had some dead ripe Blenheims so I cut back a little on the amount of sugar PLUS I added a can of crushed pineapple. The sweetness level is amazing. And the complexity of flavors is highlighted by the lemon juice. I’ve given a few jars away already and the kudos have inspired me to do more canning! I made some peach jam using the same recipe just substituting peaches for apricot (no pineapple) and the results were equally good. Thanks so much for publishing this recipe!

  • Katie Albert

    Did you peel the peaches first?
    Also, did you do a water bath?

  • Yeah… I scored the bottoms of the peaches with an “X”, dropped them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then transferred them to ice water. As soon as they were cooled, the skins slipped off. I then cut them in quarters before cooking. I used a variety of freestone peaches called “Suncrest”. They’re extremely juicy, so I also added 2 Tsp. of pectin for a 80 oz batch of jam. I used a water bath to sterilize the jars after running them through a sterilizing cycle in my dishwasher. I’ve done no further processing after the jars were filled and sealed.
    I am NO expert in these matters. Frankly, I was flying by the seat of my pants because I’ve NEVER done any canning before, but hey I’m feeling like a canning champ right now. I made some fig-pecan conserve this morning and it looks amazing. I followed the basic procedure outlined in Stephanie’s recipe. Macerate with sugar, wait 6 hours, partially cook, wait another 6 hours then final cooking and canning.
    I hope your experience is as positive as mine has been thus far. Thus is a blast!

  • I started last summer and have immersed myself in it.
    I want the jars to last a year on a shelf, so I always do a water bath AFTER the hot sterilized jars are filled and sealed. This way I will have plenty for holiday gifts too.

    Here is a great website with tons of instruction:


Stephanie Rosenbaum Klassen

Stephanie Rosenbaum Klassen is a longtime local food writer, author, and cook. Her books include The Art of Vintage Cocktails (Egg & Dart Press), World of Doughnuts (Egg & Dart Press); Kids in the Kitchen: Fun Food (Williams Sonoma); Honey from Flower to Table (Chronicle Books) and The Astrology Cookbook: A Cosmic Guide to Feasts of Love (Manic D Press). She has studied organic farming at UCSC and holds a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. She does frequent cooking demonstrations at local farmers’ markets and has taught food writing at Media Alliance in San Francisco and the Continuing Education program at Stanford University. She has been the lead restaurant critic for the San Francisco Bay Guardian as well as for San Francisco magazine. She has been an assistant chef at the Headlands Center for the Arts, an artists’ residency program located in the Marin Headlands, and a production cook at the Marin Sun Farms Cafe in Pt Reyes Station. After some 20 years in San Francisco interspersed with stints in Oakland, Santa Cruz, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, she recently moved to Sonoma county but still writes in San Francisco several days a week.

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