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Dark Apricot and Almond Conserve

Most fruit conserves are made in summer, so it's good to be able to make this one in the depths of winter when it's too cold to go out. Serve it on some warm scones or toasted crumpets.

 Dark Apricot and Almond Conserve

  Makes three 1 lb (350 ml capacity) jars

 1 lb (450 g) dried apricots
 2 oz (50 g) whole unblanched almonds, roughly chopped
 1 lb (450 g) dark soft brown sugar
 juice 4 lemons
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You will also need a preserving pan or a 6 pint (3.5 litre) heavy-based saucepan; a funnel; and three 1 lb (350 ml capacity) jars, sterilised.

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book Three.


You need to begin this the night before because the apricots need to be soaked, so put them in a bowl and pour 1 pint (570 ml) water over them. The next day, pop three or four saucers into the freezer compartment of the fridge (for testing the setting point later on).

Then, place the apricots, along with their soaking water, in the pan and simmer them very gently for about 30 minutes or until they're really tender when tested with a small skewer. Now add the sugar and, keeping the heat very low, allow it to melt and all the granules of sugar to completely dissolve - if not, the conserve will be grainy in texture. To test this, dip in a wooden spoon, and as the liquid runs off the back of it, you will see clearly if there are any granules left. When the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up to high. Next, add the lemon juice and almonds and boil rapidly for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time to prevent the conserve catching on the base of the pan.

When the time is up, remove the pan from the heat and place a teaspoonful of the conserve on one of the chilled saucers. Allow it to cool for about 30 seconds by putting it back in the fridge, then push it with your little finger: if a crinkly skin has formed, then the conserve has set. If not, boil it again for another 5 minutes and do another test, repeating three or four times if necessary, then remove the pan finally from the heat. Let it stand for 15 minutes to allow the conserve to settle.

After that, pour it through the funnel into the hot, sterilised jars (see below), filling them as full as possible, and seal straightaway with waxed discs and tight-fitting lids. Wait till the conserve is cold before putting on the labels and then store it in a cool, dry, dark place. To sterilise jars, wash the jars and lids in warm, soapy water, rinse well (again in warm water), then dry them thoroughly with a clean tea cloth, place them on a baking tray and pop them in a medium oven, gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) for a minimum of 5 minutes. Add their contents while they are still hot.


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