Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Black Velvet . . . if you please

To the song and to the whisky, I would say, “no thanks.” 

This is neither. 

Last Sunday Tug and I went to our local big box warehouse store to stock up on some essentials (mainly coffee).  Going in, I had some concerns as they always have fruit, and usually have something unusual that I feel I must have.  I was determined not to succumb to my fruit for jam addiction.  This shopping excursion taught me that I have an enabling husband.  We came home with three more pounds of dark cherries and something totally new to me – Black Velvet apricots. 

looking like plums here, but with warm fuzzies
Black Velvet apricots are actually yet another cross between apricots and plums.  This particular variety has been developed, and is apparently owned, by Kingsburg Orchards in California.  I’m not sure if their flavor is remarkably different from pluots, plumcots or apriums; but visually, they are absolutely stunning.  They’re fuzzy like apricots; they’re about the size of plums, maybe a bit smaller; they’re the color of dark purple plums; and, to me, they taste more like plums.  So when looking for recipes for jam, I looked at both apricots and plums.  And I looked at a LOT of recipes.  Like this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and several more.

This one from Coconut & Lime is specific to Black Velvet apricots, so it was my starting point.  Since I didn’t have tellicherry peppercorns, and I’ve become quite fond of using chipotles in preserves (thanks to Local Kitchen), I subbed a chipotle for the peppercorns.  Although I don’t particularly care for overly sweet preserves, I did increase the sugar by 1/4 cup, thinking it may help with the consistency of the finished jam.

I’ll be honest:  I Googled Black Velvet apricots when we got home.  While most of the websites talking about them mentioned their golden yellow flesh, mine had much more purple to them especially around the pits.  Perhaps because they were riper?  The other quality mentioned was how juicy they were.  I can definitely attest to that.  Had I been cutting these on a board versus over the bowl, there would have been juice everywhere.

What I didn’t know about the Black Velvet apricots when we bought them is that they are a clingstone fruit.  My experience with clingstone fruits is the riper the fruit, the more it clings to the pit.  I had selected what I believed to be the ripest of the apricots available. 

the stubborn little pits
(you know I stuck some of these in some dirt, dont you?)
The process of pitting them took much, much longer than the 20 minutes I had anticipated before cutting into the first one, and I knew I wouldn’t have time to finish everything before an interview I had scheduled in the afternoon.  It wasn’t initially my intent to make this a two-day jam.
this stuff foamed up like crazy while it was cooking
Although I don’t think the fruity taste of the finished jam can be identified specifically as apricot or plum, I’m still pleased with it.  There’s a tartness that didn’t get masked by too much sugar, and just a hint of smokiness from the chipotle.  The skins give the jam gorgeous color.  The set was a little bit soft when I tried it, but given that I opened the jar less than 24 hours after it was processed this isn’t unexpected.  More than likely it will continue to firm up over time.  Overall, two spoons up!
my favorite way to eat jam - with Greek-style yogurt

Smoky Black Velvet Apricot Jam
Adapted primarily from Coconut & Lime

juice of one lemon
1350 g Black Velvet apricots
500 g sugar
1 dried chipotle pepper*

Strain the lemon juice into a large bowl.  Halve (or quarter) and pit the apricots, adding the fruit to the bowl with the lemon juice.  Add the sugar and chipotle and stir gently.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2:  Prepare a water bath canner and five half-pint jars with lids and bands.  Strain the apricots in a colander set over a large, heavy-bottomed pan to collect the juice.  Find the chipotle (*if you want spicy heat as well as smokiness, break the chipotle open) and add it to the pan with the juice.  Return the apricots to the bowl.  Bring the juice to a boil over medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the syrup reaches 220°F.  Skim as needed.  Remove the chipotle and add the apricots, along with any accumulated juices, to the syrup and return the mixture to 220°F.  Remove from heat and skim again, if necessary. 

Ladle the jam into the prepared jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Attach the lids and screw on the bands finger tight.  Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Allow the jars to sit for 5 minutes in the canner, off of the heat and uncovered.  Remove the jars to a rack to cool for 24 hours.  Check the seal on the jars, remove the bands and store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.  Any jars that didn’t seal should be stored in the refrigerator and used within one month.

Makes about 4 half-pint jars.


  1. I don't blame him. I think I'd be enabling you too if I knew more new, delicious jam might come out of it. These Black Velvet apricots sound like such a treat. I never would have guessed that's what they were. Looks delicious!

    1. Thanks, Katie! I could understand Tug's enabling behavior if he actually ate jam! I think the only one he's even tried is the strawberry-chipotle that got a little too spicy. These apricots really did seem like a treat and since they're probably only around once a year, I'm glad I preserved some for later.

  2. I thought your strawberry chipotle was perfect !!

    1. But much like Tug, you like things much spicier than I do!

  3. I am so excited to read this post that my mind is racing . Firstly I want the black Velvet - I just feel like picking one and biting into it. I love fruits and love chipotle !! High five to spicy n sugary - I am beginning to think u have an Indian soul lol!! We love spicy food

    1. Simi, if you can still find the Black Velvet apricots I definiely recommend them. I have become SO addicted to fruit and chipotle! I am trying to learn more and try more Indian cooking - I love the flavors, spices and aromas!

  4. About the chakli maker : you know I was thinking about the same thing this morning - the Chakli batter is almost a soft dough consistency - it might be hard to pipe !! Let me try with a pastry bag and get back to you on this !! It is not as smooth as icing even with the Chakli maker it is a bit of an arm workout !! I wish we were in the same city - I would have lent you mine !

    for some reason i don't have a reply section on my comments @ tns : trying to resolve it as best as i can, sorry to hog this space !!

    smart of you to have stuck the pits in the dirt - hope you blog about the progress with pix :))

    1. Technology can be such a pain sometimes, can't it?!

      I will be SO excited if I get one of the seeds to germinate - although I'm running out of room in my house for trees!


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