Harvesting fruits and vegetables is a typical summertime activity in Lebanon; the air is dry, the temperatures are high, and the trees are teeming with succulent treasures.
Apricots are one of Lebanon’s favorite fruits. Because of the high pectin level contained in this sweet fruit, apricots can easily be made into jams, preserved in sugar syrup, dried in the sun and made into roll-ups. They can also be used in cordial (commonly known as “concentrate”), which is dissolved in cold water to make a cold and refreshing drink for those warm summer days.
Farmers grow apricot trees in areas where winters are moderate to avoid the risk of frost, which can damage and even ruin the entire harvest. The fruit is kept on the tree for as long as possible to retain its natural pectin.
Lebanon’s apricot jam is special because of a local variety of the fruit called Oumm Hussein. It is bursting with flavor and has an extremely sweet taste. Minimal heat is required to soften the apricots – Mother Nature does most of the work. After the jam is cooked, it is left under the sun for the natural cooking processes to take over.
The jam is left for a week to 10 days to soak up the warm sunshine, thus giving it its particular flavor. The exact duration depends on weather conditions. At night, the jam is stored indoors to prevent nighttime humidity from moistening the product.
Since Lebanon’s food culture doesn’t condone any sort of wastage, the core of the apricot is broken apart; the kernel inside is then blanched and added to the jam, giving it another layer of distinct taste.
Try making apricot jam the Lebanese way with this quick-and-easy recipe from Barbara Massaad, author, photographer and food consultant.
- 1 kg apricots
- 700g sugar
- ½ lemon, freshly squeezed
- Wash the apricots under cold running water. Dry with a kitchen towel. Remove the kernel from the apricots. To remove the apricot cores, take a sharp knife and cut the fruit in half lengthways following the line. Firmly grasp the two halves and twist them in opposite directions. Pull halves apart and remove the core.
- Layer the sugar and apricots in a large glass bowl. Start with a layer of sugar, then add a layer of apricots on top. Continue until all ingredients are used, making sure to end with a layer of sugar. Cover with a cloth and leave to stand overnight.
- Pour mixture into non-reactive pan (ex. stainless steel), add lemon juice, and bring slowly to a boil.
- Boil for at least 20 minutes, thoroughly skimming the froth from the surface as you go.
- Ladle hot jam in a clean and wide recipient. Place in the sun during the daytime for at least 1 week.
- Ladle into clean jars.
To give the jars an airtight seal:
- Place filled, closed jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.
- Remove jars and place them upside down on a surface. Leave to cool until the next day.
- Wipe jars clean, label, and store. If the jam is not meant for immediate consumption, store in a cool dark place.
Refrigerate after opening. Shelf life: 1 year.