The year that promises to be full of adventure is finally here: 2014 has warmly embraced us and we can’t wait for all the good times to begin. Leandri has her coffee roastery, Roast Republic, launching at the end of January, and Seline is now blissfully busy with all things food, fulltime!
After the indulgence that marks every festive season, we took some time to reflect on how we want to live this year. And so, we’ve decided, that we want to eat what is good for us. Eating what is good for you has many facets.
We are big fans of eating with the seasons. It works out cheaper, and it’s by far more ethical; just think about how far those poor kiwi fruit have to travel when you want to eat them in winter! This is one area which we stand firmly upon: eat what is in season, to save some money and save the planet!
Our favourite place to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables is the boeremark in Silverton, Pretoria. It buzzes between 4-7am every Saturday and the farmers bring in only the best their land has to offer, and we a fraction of the supermarket costs. This past Saturday we saw some delicious apricots and jumped at the chance to make some jam because only when fruit is at the height of the season, is it cheap enough to cook into jam.
Because we have made the decision to eat what is good for us, we fight off the urge to make apricot upside-down cake (one of Leandri’s favourites) and think upon fresher alternatives. Apricots are so perfect for summer because they are both sweet and sour, they work equally well in savoury and sweet dishes and they are divine when eaten either cooked or raw.
We have some fond memories of our mother making apricot jam from the fruit trees in our backyard, way back in the day before they were chopped down to add on to the house as the family grew. We would stir it into our sago pudding and on our peanut butter sandwiches. Most readers probably have such nostalgic recollections too, of either a grandmother or a farmhouse. Apricot jam just seems to feature everywhere!
Some novice cooks might be scared of making jam, probably because the older generations complain about hours and hours of work they used to put into making preserves. The truth is, however, that it’s quite simple and relatively quick. On top of that, it makes for a lovely gift. Leandri recalls visiting friends and taking along peach vanilla jam, as well as a strawberry peppercorn jam. Some of the ladies at the braai were astounded that she has made her own jam, because ‘people don’t do that anymore’. Amongst the younger generation it is a dying craft because we have been told it is tedious and difficult. Not so!
One of the cheat tricks is to use fruits that don’t require laborious preparation. Often we opt for tomatoes, apricots, grapes and berries, just because they are ‘low maintenance’ fruits. They can also easily be jazzed up with the addition of herbs and spices, for an interesting twist. The basic idea is then to cook the fruit with equal parts (or a little less) of sugar with a dash of vinegar until the consistency is sticky and still slightly runny.
Once the jam has been made, it can be used in so many ways. For breakfast, it’s perfect spread on fresh bread with salted butter. It can be added to yoghurt with muesli, or with snoek and poached eggs on sourdough toast. For lunch, you could turn the apricot jam into a marinade for chicken breasts, as we have done in the photograph, and then serve it on a salad with apricot jam vinaigrette! For sundowners, you could enjoy a teaspoonful of the jam topped with soda water and a shot of citron vodka. At dinner, you can stir it into your Moroccan tagine or make a sticky barbeque sauce for your meat. In fact, the possibilities only end at the edge of your creativity.
So here we share our recipe for apricot and thyme jam, and then run through a quick and healthy way to serve the jam. We can assure you that once you try making your own, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever go back to the tinned variety found at your supermarket. You might also earn a little more respect in your friendship circle too, especially if you serve it with the chevin and crackers, as suggested!
Serve it with Chevin and Crackers – yummy!
Use it as a marinade and a salad dressing – so versatile!
Recipe: Apricot thyme jam (Makes about 1.5kg)
1kg fresh apricots
2 tablespoons vinegar
15g fresh thyme
A pinch of salt
Wash the apricots and cut in half. Remove the stone and discard.
Place the apricots in a large pot, and add the sugar, salt and vinegar. Remove the thyme leaves and add to the mix.
Turn the heat on, to a medium low temperature. Stir occasionally.
If you want a smooth jam, you should stir the jam continually to break the fruit apart. If you would like a chunky jam, then stir once every few minutes.
Slowly boil the jam until it starts to look thicker, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a clean glass jar in the oven at 150 degrees C for 40 minutes.
Test to see whether your jam is ready by spooning a small drop of jam on a plate and leaving to stand. If it forms a skin on the top and doesn’t run within 30 seconds of spooning it onto the plate, then it is ready.
Remove from the heat once thick to your liking. Spoon into jars and screw the lid on firmly.
Apricot jam Chicken breasts with a salad (serves 2)
2 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons jam (see above)
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
½ teaspoon garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil