I have been struggling to know what to write about since my last post, but recently the inspiration arrived in a couple of plastic bags handed to me by a fellow volunteer at Segue. When I looked inside I was initially delighted to see apricots, however, upon closer inspection, it was apparent that they were very ordinary looking apricots.
Arriving back home, I walked into the kitchen and put the bags on the kitchen bench while I got on with my work. It was as I worked that it occurred to me I had been handed the inspiration I needed to write this blog, and also what I needed to do to turn the ugly apricots into little pots of deliciousness.
I would make Apricot and Lavender Jam!
With no French lavender growing in my garden, I needed to try and find some, I knew there was a little over at Segue, so hopped into the car and drove over to check it out. But there were only a few tiny sprigs, simply not enough. Later that evening I picked up my phone and sent a couple of quick messages to ask if anyone had French Lavender that I could use in cooking… Bingo! The same volunteer who had handed me the apricots, had French lavender growing in her garden.
You may wonder where I got the idea to make Apricot and Lavender Jam? Well, earlier this year, when we were traveling through France, we enjoyed a few nights at a beautiful B&B just out of Cognac, called La Cascade de Saintonge. It was here that we enjoyed delicious meals prepared by our wonderful host, Madame Sylvie Bernard.
Our evening meals were served in a little garden house, overlooking the river – so relaxing and peaceful. Sylvie had the table beautifully prepared and our meals were amazing. Starters, soup, main, cheese and dessert together with a little apéritif created by her father and a pitcher of wine, it couldn’t get much better.
Given the inclement weather, breakfast was served in the dining room, and each day there was something a little different… Fruit compote, fresh fruit, panna cotta, little cakes, breads, eggs and so on, together with freshly made tea and coffee. But it was the jams that I loved, they were different, and this is where I fell in love with Apricot and Lavender Jam. I think it may have been my favourite, the potato marmalade and tomato and vanilla jam, were also delicious.
I know that her beautiful big brown eyed four legged friend would loved to have joined us, but alas, he was only allowed to view from the kitchen door.
I felt particularly privileged to be invited into her kitchen, just prior to our departure, to view her preparations for a gathering of 20 friends that evening. The pintade/guinea fowl, purchased from a local farmer, had been readied for the oven, and there were the little savoury clafoutis she was preparing for the apératif, I know that the dining room would be abuzz that evening.
Before we left, I asked about her jams and she told me that for the apricot and lavender jam you only need 8 heads of lavender.
With the knowledge imparted by Sylvie earlier this year, the apricots and lavender was turned into jam and all that I made for the produce stall at Segue, has been sold. I did manage to keep a few little pots for myself though.
I thought you might enjoy a little tour of the tranquility…
Le Chat Noir
I know that when I sit down to enjoy a slice of toast with apricot and lavender jam, my thoughts will take me back to those beautiful few days at La Cascade de Saintonge, and our beautiful host Madam Sylvie Bernard.
Evoking beautiful memories of our stay at La Cascade de Saintonge
- 1 kg apricots
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1 kg sugar
- 8 sprigs of dried lavender
Wash and halve the apricots and remove and discard the kernels.
Chop the apricots, coarsely.
Remove the little lavender flowers from the stalks, and discard the stalks.
Combine apricots, lavender flowers, water and lemon juice in a large heavy based pan.
Bring to the boil and cook gently, covered for 10 minutes, until the fruit is tender.
Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
Bring to the boil and boil rapidly, uncovered until setting point is reached.
Remove from heat and allow to stand 10 minutes.
Pour into warm, sterilised jars and seal.
When cool, label and date.
- The simplest method for checking for a good set is to place a saucer in the freezer so that it is very cold. Then when you think the jam is ready, place a little on the saucer and leave it until it cools down before running your finger through the middle of the jam, the surface should wrinkle and the jam should not run back and fill the track your finger has made.
- Use freshly picked, unsprayed sprigs of lavender from the garden. Do not buy them from a florist, as it is likely that they have been sprayed with pesticides, etc.
- Store in a cool dark place for up to 12 months.
- If using fresh flowers, double the quantity
Until next time…
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