Saturday, September 24, 2011

Home made apricot jam (varenie)


Apricot jam (varenie) is something we make at home every summer since I remember myself. I am a crazy apricot lover always waiting for the season to start after the long winter. However as soon as August is over apricots are gone again. The apricot jam is an attempt to keep them with me till the next summer and I must say it works. With its mind blowing aroma and deep flavor it's like little magic in a jar.

Our (Russian) name for this kind of jam is varenie. It's the most traditional for Russia kind of fruit preserve with whole pieces of fruit in sugar syrup. It doesn't normally set (only if made of high pectin fruits like apples or currants) and keeps thick and fluid.

The normal way to consume it is on its own, with a cup of tea. I only realized how strange this might sound outside Russia when I came to Insead. That was the first thing which drew attention of my housemates. "So you are actually eating jam with a tea spoon while drinking your tea?" - I guess they might have expressed their amazement differently if they weren't so polite.

At Christmas time we also use this jam to bake traditional cottage cheese cookies. That's the highest degree of sophistication we came to over years and years. I could never imagine how creatively one can look at it till I presented a jar to Suki Maman (the pastry chef of Upside down cake Moscow bakery) last week. At first Suki presented it in sweet and savory combination of apricot jam with cornmeal "financier". Then came the Welsh Whisky cake coated with apricot jam - I'm not surprised any more, getting used to Suki's magic. That's when I thought this jam was actually something valuable to share.

It's lots of fun making it, just make sure you embark on this adventure with someone you like being with. The technology is no rocket science. You can apply it to other fruits (e.g. I also do plums, strawberries and cherries). Pick the apricots you like the most. To me, the smaller juicy apricots with red sides do the best job. If you would like them to keep pretty pieces in the ready jam, pick those that are not too soft.


As we normally do no less than 3 kg, it takes some time to halve and pit them, but you needn't be that stubborn and can start, say, from 1 kg. The only thing requiring certain concentration is the sugar syrup. Here it's important to pay attention and make it properly, otherwise the jam will not come out right and there will be no way to "correct" it. Then you cook the jam for 5 minutes, let it rest for 5 hours and repeat 4-5 times till it's ready.

Home made apricot jam (varenie)

makes 1.6 kg of jam

1 kg apricots (halved and pitted)
1 kg sugar

Put the prepared fruit into a large heavy base pan, which you will use to make the jam.


Place the prepared fruit into a large heavy base pan, which you will use to make the jam. The volume of the pan should be at least 3 liters for each kilo of fruit.

Make the sugar syrup in another pan. Combine the sugar with enough water for it to get wet (1-1.5 cups). Stir to make sure all the sugar is wet. Set over high heat and bring to boil, without stirring. Skim off scum if any. As soon as it starts bubbling, set the heat to medium-high. It is important not to stir the syrup while it cooks, as it may crystalize. Do not be afraid that it will burn on the bottom. It won't.



Let it bubble away for several minutes till you see the bubbles increasing in size. You need the syrup to reach thick thread stage. If you have a sugar thermometer - the ready syrup should be 105-111C. If you don't have a thermometer you can check the following way. Deep your fingers in cold water. Deep a table spoon into the syrup and lose a drop of syrup on your thumb. Press the drop with your index finger and pull slightly up. The thread should be thick (2-3 mm). If the thread is thin (1 mm or so), the syrup is not done. Keep checking quite often (around once per 30 seconds) not to let the syrup get overdone.

Pour the ready hot syrup into the pan with prepared fruit. Let stand for 5 hours. Then start cooking. Bring the jam to boil and cook for 5 minutes on low heat. It is better not to stir it if you would like to keep the apricot pieces whole. Skim off scum if any. Turn off the heat and let stand for another 5 hours, then repeat. To get it done you need around 4 iterations. To check whether the jam is ready, lose a drop of the syrup (room temperature) onto your thumb nail (yes, I do it the family way). The drop should hold.

Ladle the hot ready jam into jars. It is better to scald the jars with boiling water before that. Close the jars tightly (while the jam is still hot) and let cool. Closed jars can be stored for months at room temperature. The open jars normally also do, but to prevent any risk, store them in the fridge.


Related posts and pages:

Russian syrniki (cottage cheese pancakes)
Pumpkin porridge for Russian winter

Suki Maman cupcake class at Afisha Eda Food feast
Suki Maman master class in cafe Sok
Upside down cake Moscow bakery

Kiev food: a personal guide