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“Errare humanum est” was probably my favourite quote in Latin class and, most likely, the only sentence in Latin that I truly understood. I struggled through most of my five years of studying an old language that nobody but select scholars and religious people speak. Latin was like a puzzle that I absolutely had to solve, and I am stubborn. Unfortunately, I struggled because most of the time, studying Latin meant interpreting the sentences and the words. It wasn’t just translating word-for-word, it involved comprehension. And since I was going from French to Latin, and Latin to French, there was pretty much no hope of me interpreting and wording anything correctly. My translations were usually wrong and misinterpretations of the texts. Sometimes, my translations were nonsensical. Taking Latin did help me with my French grammar because understanding grammar and the role that every single word plays in a sentence is absolutely critical to Latin. So, my grammar skills improved over the years, but my Latin language skills? Not so much. What does this have to do with honey apricot jam? I’ll get to that in a minute.
This year, I am doing a lot of new things. I spend much of my time far from my comfort zone. And it’s so hard for me to admit, but I make mistakes. It feels like a lot of mistakes even if it really isn’t, but every blunder is so unsettling. Sometimes, I feel ashamed and embarrassed when I screw something up. My reaction to an error I commit can only be described as yucky: a mistake most often leads me to question myself, my level of knowledge, my research skills, my life choices, the path I’m on… Nobody is getting mad at me, but I get mad at myself. And, of course, “errare humanum est”, right? To err is human but it leaves me riddled with self-doubt.
There’s a second part to that Latin quote that I always forget about and that I really should focus on more: “Errare human est, sed in errore perseverare diabolicum” meaning to make a mistake is human, but to persist (and essentially repeat that mistake) is diabolical. To me, that means that we will make mistakes throughout our lives, but we have to learn from our mistakes and evolve. That’s how we get better. Well, at least I think that’s what that Latin quote means. I could be wrong considering I took Latin some 15 years ago, and I was honestly terrible at it.
If you know me, you know I love jam. All jams, really. Over the years, I’ve successfully made spiced apple jam, plum jam, rhubarb juniper berry jam, and even jalapeño jam. Clearly, I have a little thing for jam. I wouldn’t say that I am an expert in jam, but I’ve made a few batches over the years. And my latest blunder came when I was making this apricot jam. I was going for a golden homage to sweet, late spring apricots, but it wasn’t quite so because I committed the ultimate jam-maker’s faux-pas of using 75% unripe apricots. Most jam makers will agree that you should include about 25% unripe fruits in each batch of jam because those unripe fruits have a higher level of pectin, which will help the set, but you need to be careful because too much unripe fruit and your jam will taste like sour, unripe fruit (duh!). I was in a hurry, and I had these beautiful apricots stashed in my fridge for this jam. I didn’t take the time to check if they were ripe enough to go in the fridge in the first place. A couple days on the counter, and unripe stone fruit will transform into something great. Shoulda, woulda, coulda, but didn’t. I went straight from store to fridge to jam and I quickly realized, as I sliced into the apricots I’d been saving, that the apricots were cold, hard, sour, basically not ripe, and not ready for jam. I persisted and added a little extra sugar. I made the jam with mostly unripe apricots and then I canned it.
Having taken a few days and walked away from the situation, I can now say that my apricot jam was not a total disaster, nor a complete waste of my time. The jam is made, and the jars are sealed. And this jam is pretty good! I’ve had it on English muffins and I’ve had it on buttered toast, and I’ve licked the spoon. I should probably learn to be less hard on myself. It has a bright apricot taste with honey’s sweet, unique flavour.
Recipe adapted from Preservation Society Home Preserves: 100 Modern Recipes
Honey apricot jam recipe
Honey apricot jam with unripe fruit
- 1.2 kg apricots
- 450 grams granulated sugar 2 1/4 cups
- 350 grams wild flower honey 1 cup
- 60 grams fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp loose leaf black tea optional, but I love tea in jam!
- Wash & sterilize jars and lids for canning. Prep a large canning pot full of water and bring it to a boil.
- Combine the first 4 ingredients in a separate large pot. Let sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
- Meanwhile, wrap the tea leaves in cheesecloth to make a bundle. Drop it into the pot of fruit.
- Place the pot of syrupy fruit on the stove and heat on medium heat to bring the mixture to a boil, stirring every so often. You may want to skim off some of the foam that forms as you heat. Continue to heat the mixture until the bubbles are more stable, the jam sets nicely on a frozen saucer, and the jam is well above 215ºF (I aim for about 218ºF if I can get it there).
- Turn the heat off and let the pot of jam sit for 5 minutes, then stir to evenly distribute the fruit. Remove the tea bag.
- Transfer the jam to sterilized, hot jars, leaving a 1/4" headspace. Top with sterilized lids and screw shut 'until finger-tight.
- Place the jars in the canning bath, and bring the water back up to a boil with the lid on. Boil for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off and let it sit for 10 minutes off the heat. Remove the jars from the bath and set on a towel-lined baking tray. Let stand at room temperature overnight.
Janice Lawandi is chemist-turned-baker, working as a recipe developer in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and cooking at l’Académie Culinaire. She has a BSc in Biochemistry from Concordia University and a PhD in Chemistry from McGill University. Visit janicelawandi.com to see my portfolio.