Enchanting cobblestone-clad towns don ancient church towers that peek proudly over the endless rows of vineyards which zigzag across the rolling hills that flank the Danube River. This region, nestled neatly in Niederösterreich, is known as the Wachau Valley and is home to some of Austria’s finest wines and distilleries.
However, there is another epicuriosity which this valley is famous for. Not only is it celebrated every year with its very own festival, but the rather unassuming Wachauer Marille (apricot) has actually been protected – and its quality certified by – the European Union itself! (since 1996). That’s quite impressive.
The climate and soil which are unique to the region make for uniquely tasty, and consequently world famous, Marillen (apricots) and like any good foodie, I couldn’t resist trying them in any and all of their forms (cakes, pastries, marillenknödel (dumplings), jams, chutney’s, liquors, nectar’s, and of course, fresh off the tree).
I bought 4 kilograms of marillen from a local farmer the same hour that they had been picked.
It was my first time canning. As I type this, I am sighing to myself. Of the 8 jars I canned, only 3 popped their lids and are able to be properly preserved. That’s 5 jars in the fridge waiting to be eaten. Kind of. They turned out so good that we polished off 2 jars already (in 2 days) with a selection of goat cheeses, Camemberts and blue cheeses… (blush)…
I adapted the recipe that I found on Food in Jars and made two different types:
- an Apricot Rosemary jam
- and an Apricot Bourbon Vanilla jam
- I started by filling a very large stock pot with filtered water (tap water where I live is quite pure yet very hard, so leaves a white residue). I used a round wire rack in the bottom of my pot so that the jars wouldn’t crack while boiling. Alternatively, you could wrap small pieces of kitchen towel around the jars and secure it with a rubber band, to avoid the jars from breaking. I boiled the jars and lids for around 20 minutes and worked on the apricots in the mean time.
- I then pulled apart 3 kilos of washed apricots with my hands into halves (or thirds). I found that pieces had a better texture and consistency when I pulled them apart by hand versus cutting them into square chunks.
- I then used roughly 1.5 kilos of apricots on each recipe – one recipe with fresh rosemary and one recipe with bourbon vanilla beans.
- Using a very large non-reactive pan, I filled it with a small amount of water and added half the amount of apricots (half of 1.5 kilos) and simmered this for just a few minutes before adding the rest of the apricots
- I used roughly 2 cups of sugar for each recipe
- In the case of the rosemary jam, I used about 8 large sprigs of rosemary to 1.5 kilos of apricots. This comes out very rosemary-y which I personally love. Some may want to go easier on the leaves!
- In the case of the bourbon vanilla jam, I used 2 vanilla pods. Extracting the vanilla beans and using the shell of the pods for the cooking process. Before you can the jam, make sure to discard the 2 empty pods
- Bring this to a boil for roughly 15 minutes. The temperature should reach at least 100 degrees Celsius (roughly 210 Fahrenheit) to take care of the possible bacteria.
- Cooking times may vary. What you want to look for is a thick consistency. It should not be runny (if it is, perhaps add some more sugar and/or let it reduce a little more). Once you have reached your desired consistency, take the pan off the heat and add lemon juice.
- I added the juice of 1 and a half freshly squeezed lemons to my pan
- Take the jars and lids out of the boiling water carefully and make sure they are dry. You can keep the water boiling, as you will bathe your jars in there soon. The jars should dry relatively quickly. Make sure your working space is sanitary and avoid touching the inside of the jars.
- Using a wide-mouth funnel, spoon the jam into the jars while they are hot. I believe they need to be filled pretty much almost to the very top (where I probably went wrong), wipe the rim (where I went wrong again), and put the lid on relatively tightly (third strike and some of my jars were out!)
- Now place the sealed jars in the pot of boiling water once again for roughly 15 minutes. Boiling time would depend on the size of your jar. I am using relatively small to medium sized jam jars. You want to make sure that the water covers the jars entirely. In case you needed to add more water, to cover the jars, wait until the water is at a rolling boil before you set the timer
- When time is up, remove the jars carefully and stand them in a place overnight to cool. Do not touch them and do not touch the lid! (no forced popping!) I found out afterwards that they should actually cool for a good 24 hours on their own, completely untouched.
- The seals will pop on their own once they cool. If they do not pop, you should place the jam in the fridge and consume it quite quickly (shouldn’t be a problem). Only those lids that “popped” (suctioned themselves in) are safe to preserve and store in a cool place for about a year