After two months free of stress and pain, two weeks ago I was attacked by an unexplainable and horrible fatigue that killed every bit of liveliness or energy in my body. As usual, I immediately assumed the worst, but then I noticed the people around me complaining about the same thing, saying that it’s probably something in the over-polluted air of Los Angeles. Now, I can’t do caffeine, and I always assume if I eat better I will feel better. And it does work. Cutting down on sugar definitely helped. I even convinced my poor husband, who’s a sugar addict, to quit sugar. (Four days later he said that life is meaningless without it, and started to eat sugar again.) But the fact that I stopped eating sugar doesn’t mean my kids (or my cooking obsession) have to stop. I couldn’t resist those beautiful tart apricots in the market when I spotted them, which cost me $1 per pound for freshly picked organic apricots (at the West Hollywood Farmers’ Market). Their season is so brief that you have to make a jam out of them, even if just a little bit. You can’t make a homemade jam without licking the wooden spoon a few times. I kept telling myself nobody ever died from eating a little bit of their favorite jam. Plus, I did cut the amount of sugar in the recipe. My husband and I have this ongoing argument: which jam is best? I say apricot, he says strawberry. Leo, who likes tart flavors, agrees with me, and Alex, who’s a sweet-monster, agrees with my husband. There is no question, apricot is the best! It’s better to combine the apricot with the sugar first for a few hours, or overnight, to accelerate the process of softening the fruit.
- 4 cups apricots
- 1/2 cup filtered water
- 2 cups cane sugar
- 2 star anise
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 teaspoon brandy or whiskey (optional)
- Put a saucer in the freezer. You will use it to test if the jam is ready when the cooking time is up.
- Wash the apricots, cut into halves, remove the pits, then cut into quarters.
- Put the apricots, water, sugar and anise stars into a heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 30 minutes, giving it a quick stir every now and again with a wooden spoon. While the liquid gradually thicken, the apricots will get soften.
- Add lemon juice and brandy and continue to cook for about 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Be careful to not let the jam burn in the bottom of the pot! Take the saucer out of the freezer and drop a teaspoon of jam onto it. If the texture is sort of rubbery then the jam is ready! If it is not, continue to cook it. Test every few minutes. I am always tempted to taste it straight from the pot, and end up burning my tongue, so make sure you blow on it for at least twenty second before you put the spoon in your mouth!
- When the jam is ready, let it cool for 10 minutes, then carefully spoon it into jars and cover with the lid straight away. Let it cool, then store in the fridge.