Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Prize Apricot Jam

Two apricot trees grew beside the house I grew up in in Kamloops. They never grew very tall, but produced quite a few apricots, according to my memory. My mother made this jam every year, filling the house with the smell of hot sugary fruit. The result: jars of golden summer flavour to open in the dark days of winter.

This jam is made the old-fashioned way, without commercial pectin. It relies on the pectin in citrus and natural fruit, along with a long (about 35 minutes) simmer. I like to have a book beside me while I stir, or someone to visit with.

Prize Apricot Jam

8 cups pitted, chopped apricots (large chunks, at least one-inch pieces)
zest of 1 orange
finely chopped fruit of one orange, pith removed
1 cup drained crushed pineapple
4 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Wash and sterilize 8, half-pint jars. Place lids in small saucepan and cover with water. Don't boil them yet.

In large, heavy pot, stir all of the jam ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat until the mixture boils steadily, and stir constantly, until 2 thick drops of syrup run together off the side of a cold metal spoon. Alternately, place a plate in the freezer, and drop a spoonful of jam onto the cold plate to test it. When a spoon can be drawn through the jam and the ridge remain clear, the jam is ready. This will take about 35 minutes. The jam will darken in colour, and the apricots break down, leaving bits of fruit and peel.

A few minutes before the jam is ready, boil the lids for 5 minutes, turn the heat off and leave the lids in the hot water.

Ladle into sterilized jars, seal, and let cool. Makes 6-8 half pint jars of jam.

Apricot Tart

Apricots have such a short season that I knew I must not hesitate to make this tart. The crust is sweet and slightly chewy, like a cookie, and easily presses into a tart pan - no rolling required. The custardy filling is flavoured with honey and almond extract, a perfect pairing with the slightly tart apricot halves. It's not too heavy - a perfect summer treat with tea.

The tart is based on one found on the Epicurious website, but I've adapted it.


1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of fine salt
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons finely ground almonds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Combine the melted better and sugar in a bowl. Stir. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until a soft dough forms. Place the dough in the center of the tart pan and evenly press it out with your fingers to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. 

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and then into the oven to baked for 12-15 minutes. Sprinkle the ground almonds, if using, over the bottom of the crust.

While the crust bakes, prepare the filling.


2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon flour

Fresh apricots, about 1 1/2 lbs, pitted and halved
Icing sugar, for garnish

Combine the eggs, whipping cream, yogurt or sour cream, extracts and honey. Whisk well to blend. Whisk in the flour. Pour the filling evenly over the pastry. Arrange the apricots in concentric circles, beginning with the outside of the tart, overlapping slightly. Fill in the center with more apricots. 

Bake the tart 50-60 minutes, or until the filling is firm and the pastry a golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately dust with icing sugar. Cool on rack. Serve slightly warm, or at room temperature. 

Linking to Foodie Friday.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Chocolate Marshmallow Squares

Before moving to Ecuador my husband and I spent 9 months in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, along the Mexican border, studying Spanish. We arrived on a steamy August evening, just after a minor hurricane. I have never experienced such humidity. Never. Even in our jungle years.

Our apartment had no air conditioning. We knew we'd be moving to the jungle and thought that we had just better get used it. Uh huh. We lasted one night, trying to sleep in a steam bath and failing miserably. As soon as the stores opened we were there and plunked down the cash for an air conditioner. It made life bearable for these northern folk. 

Cooking was avoided because of the heat. But those were the days when our figures could still withstand daily sweets and I liked to have baking on hand. No internet in those days. I wrote and asked my mother for a few of her no-bake square recipes. She sent them, typed onto a pale blue sheet of stationery that still resides in my recipe box. I remember her making these squares when I was a child, as a treat for Sunday evening lunch, faspa, we called it. She still makes them. They are fast to prepare, without heating up the kitchen, and are a sweet treat after a meal, or as a little pick-me-up with a cup of tea.

Chocolate Marshmallow Squares

1/2 cup butter
2 squares (2 oz) semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup sifted icing sugar
1 beaten egg
1 cup mini-marshmallows
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup coconut (optional)
whole graham wafers to line an 8 x 8 square pan.

Line an 8 x 8 pan with whole graham wafers, trimming them to fit, or letting them overlap slightly.

Melt the butter and chocolate together (over simmering water on the stove top or in a glass bowl in the microwave). Add the icing sugar and egg, beating well. Stir in the marshmallows and optional ingredients. Pour over the graham wafers, spread to the corners and place in the fridge until set. Cut into squares.