It’s the height of summer and stone fruits abound: peaches, nectarines, apricots. Cherries are still going strong at the farmer’s market!  Even though they are not as ubiquitous as the Meyer lemon tree, you can usually find someone with an apricot tree who needs to unload their bounty at this time of year.

While obviously the best thing to do with in-season fruit is to eat till your heart’s content, sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach. The other challenge with eating stone fruit is getting ones at the peak of ripeness.  I contend an underripe peach is nearly inedible.  Clearly, the best thing to do with over and under-ripe stone fruit is to can them.  Stone fruits are remarkably versatile, so I am including three different preparations with three different fruit.

1.  Apricot Amaretto Jam –  The sweet, slightly spicy flavor of amaretto is a perfect note to the tart and sweet flavors of apricots.  You can leave the amaretto out of the recipe if you are a purist, but the combination is killer.  I’m using this recipe.  The thing about blanching and peeling apricots is that you will end up with mush.  This is perfect for jam, although disappointing if you wanted whole apricots.

Ingredients:
4 cups peeled, crushed apricots (about 3 pounds)
3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup amaretto liqueur

1. Sterilize your jars in boiling water for 10 minutes and place a plate in the freezer to test your jam for doneness later.

2. Blanch the apricots by submerging them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Quickly transfer them to a big bowl of ice water. (The amount of time in the boiling water depends on how ripe your cots are. More ripe = less time.)

3. Pop the apricots out of their skins (if they don’t pop, just do your best to peel away as much skin as you can) and remove the pits, putting the fruit into a big glass or ceramic bowl for mashing.

4. Crush your apricots.

5. Add the sugar and lemon juice to the fruit in your bowl—or combine all the ingredients right in your jam pan, whichever you prefer. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or so. The author uses Meyer lemons—less acidic than others—and might add a little more lemon juice after tasting. Just enough so the flavors “pop.” But you don’t want to overdo it with the lemon juice. Too much acid leaves a burn on the tongue. It’s like adding too much salt—you can’t take it back.

6. Heat the mixture using a medium-low setting, stirring gently until the sugar is fully dissolved.

7. Turn the heat to medium high and cook until your jam reaches the setting point. Refer to the plate test from the strawberry jam post.  I don’t think apricots like super-high heat. Even on medium-high, they foam up like crazy and cook quite quickly. I stir apricot jam much more frequently than most other kinds. I skim, skim, skim while I’m cooking. (Use a shallow, stainless spoon to take the stiff, pale foam from the top of the mixture. Try to avoid the actual bubbling jam. That’s the good stuff.) The jam cooks in about 10-12 minutes in my 11-quart pan. (Lots of factors affect cooking time, so be sure to watch your jam and test it carefully.)

8. Gently (finally!) stir in the amaretto liqueur.

9. Ladle the hot jam into your sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. A couple of things to remember—Stir the jam with a chopstick to release any air bubbles and wipe the rims of the jars clean for a perfect seal.

10. Stick the filled jars with their lids into a boiling water bath and process for 10 minutes.

Yields about four half-pint jars.

2. Nectarine Barbecue sauce – I simply substitute nectarines for peaches from this recipe. http://www.simplebites.net/small-batch-peach-barbecue-sauce/

Ingredients:
2 pounds slightly underripe nectarines (approximately 7-8 peaches)
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup minced onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed Aleppo pepper

1. Cut peaches in half. Remove stones and peels.

2. Combine all ingredients in a wide pot with a tight-fitting lid and stir to combine. Place lidded pot on the stove over medium-high heat and cook for approximately 10 minutes, until the peaches and onions have softened.

3. Continue to cook, with the lid off, until the mixture has reduced by approximately half.

4. Remove pot from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth (you may have to tip the pan a little in order to do this without splashing). If you don’t have an immersion blender, scrape the mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

5. If the sauce is nice and thick, it is done. If it’s still a little watery, return it to the heat and cook a bit longer. At this point, taste it and add more salt or pepper, if necessary.

6. When it’s finished, divide the sauce between two half pint jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath canner for 20 minutes.

7. When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel.

8. Sealed jars can be stored in your pantry for up to one year. Unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.

 

3. Brandied Cherries – This was an inspiration from my friend Rebecca. She suggested making brandied cherries from the surplus of cherries we had for a picnic. I used this recipe.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1 stick cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 cup brandy or aged rum, or any combination of the two
1 pound cherries, stemmed and pitted

1. Pit the cherries using a cherry pitter. It is nearly impossible to have a whole pitted cherry without using a cherry pitter.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cherry juice (or water), cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Bring to a low simmer.

3. Simmer, stirring until sugar is fully dissolved.

4. Remove saucepan from heat. Add brandy or other liqueur, and stir to combine.

5. Add cherries and stir until coated with syrup.

6. Remove to clean canning jars. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight before serving.

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