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Apricot, Strawberry, Cherry: Time for a Summer Jam

Oh, today. Today is a day of questions… Why did some jackhole eat half the almonds in the packet at Whole Foods and then put it back on the shelf? Why did I not notice this till I got home? Why did my beautifully lush bee balm give up the ghost utterly, forcing me to wrench it out and leave a gaping hole in my tub garden? Why am I not in Santa Barbara, drinking my favorite champagne and watching all the pretty horses graze as the Pacific winks at me in the distance? Why? Sigh…

Today, however, is also a day with wonderments all its own. Three and a half hours extra sleep, tea in Dupont with a friend, and a good stretchy Pilates session go far to counteract the whys of the day. I also, for the first time this summer, saw all three of my summer jam fruits at the store at the same time. Apricots, strawberries, and cherries. It seems a bit crazy to moosh them all together, and it’d have never occured to me save for the languid summer afternoon I found myself with just a leftover handful of each–not enough to do anything major, or good enough to eat out of hand–so I made jam.

And oh my god, was it the best thing ever–like sunshine itself, the very essence of summer. Tart, musky apricot; bright, fragrant strawberries; and plump juicy cherries. All three flavors combine into a wall of fruity succulence that washes inexorably across your palate. Texturally, it’s pretty champion too. The apricots melt away into unctuousness, the strawberries soften and release their juices, and the cherries relax but retain a bit of snap–truly, something for everyone.

Obviously, if you’ve managed to get your hands on absolutely uber-primo apricots don’t bother making jam, just eat the damn things. However, a truly perfect apricot–richly honeyed, deeply perfumed, soft to the point of total surrender–is a rare and beautiful thing that I’ve only experienced once or twice. This jam makes the most of what we can regularly get at the grocery store and leverages the more quotidian pleasures offered by good strawberries and cherries.

This is a refrigerator jam–no time for full-on canning tomfoolery today. Just a quick cook and then bung it into the ‘fridge. And, honestly, you’ll burn through this too quickly for anything to go off. On toast, swirled into yogurt, plopped atop ice cream or granola. The possibilities are endless.

Summer Jam
Yield: ~3 cups

1/2 lb apricots
1/4 c granulated white sugar
pinch salt
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 lb strawberries
3/4 lb sweet red cherries

Wash and dry the apricots. Halve them and remove the pits. Cut the apricot halves into chunks a little less then a centimeter–give or take. Combine the apricot bits, sugar, salt, and lemon juice in a small (~2 1/4 qt) saucepan. Stir to combine and get the juices flowing, and set aside while you get on with the rest of the fruit.

Wash and hull the strawberries. Cut into pieces slightly larger than the apricot pieces and set aside on a plate.

Put the pot with the apricot mixture on the stove and cook over medium heat while you deal with the cherries. Stir the apricot mixture every minute or so to keep from burning or sticking. The apricots will release their juices immediately, but won’t really start to breakdown till you’ve added the rest of the fruit.

Wash and stem the cherries. Pit and halve them. (Even I do not have a cherry pitter. I cut them in half with a small serrated knife all at once, then twist the halves apart all at once, then excavate the pits all at once. Easier to make an assembly line process out of it.)

Add the strawberries and cherries to the pot and continue to cook over medium low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring every minute or so to prevent prevent burning or sticking. After about 20 minutes, the apricots will have broken down completely, the strawberries and cherries will be soft, and the surface of the pot will be covered in pale foam and bubbling gently.

Remove the pot from the heat and skim off the foam. Pour into a bowl, cover, and chill.

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