Homemade apricot jam is traditional and in the past every household used to make it.
Lebanese society has become Westernized and families now have two-wage earners busy with outside work; as a result, many people rely on an industrious grandmother, mother or aunt to perpetuate the tradition.
The best (and only) apricots to use for this purpose are from the North near Baalbeck, close to Syria; this variety is so fragrant and sweet you almost want to bottle their perfume.
My aunt Claire brought us a couple of jars that she preserved the traditional way by finishing the preparation in the sun; this serves to get rid of the excess moisture without cooking the fruit.
My aunt Claire is turning the big eight 0 in a few days; we are going to celebrate! She still looks good in her two-piece bikini and climbs mountains like a goat; she spent five years during the war scouting Lebanon, photographer in tow; while everybody was staying put at home, trying to avoid land mines and shells, she discovered that old homes, most of which had been abandoned, boasted 19th century painted ceilings; found an editor and published a beautiful coffee-table book on the topic; this was her very first professional endeavor, she was pushing seventy-years young.
To take a look at her book, click here.
Here is Aunt Claire‘s recipe:
2 Pound of apricots
1 1/2 pounds of granulated sugar
1. Wash and dry the apricots (important to dry them and not leave any moisture on them); seed them and place them in a bowl; for each layer of apricots add a layer of sugar, then a layer of fruit until all apricots are used up. Leave in bowl overnight.
2. Dump the apricots on a large sieve, let them drain; collect all the juice and bring it to a boil either in a copper pan or a pan with a wide bottom; simmer the juice and after 30 minutes or less, test it by placing a plate near the pot and with a spoon placing a drop on the plate; if it looks like it has the right consistency, stop the cooking. It should be thick and syrupy.
3. Place the apricots in the syrup and cook for about 20 minutes at a slow simmer; let the mixture rest overnight in a pyrex dish, as large as possible in size.
4. The next day, place the pyrex dish in full sun for a few hours, stirring it briefly a few times with a wooden spoon. Place the empty jars in full sun as well to sterilize them.
5. Spoon the apricot jam in the jars and serve when cool; keep in the fridge or store.