Hemingway Inspired Apricot and Riesling Jam + A New Blog

Monday, May 18, 2009

When writing papers I usually need to have a study break of some kind. More often than not my study breaks consist of cooking something I've never made before. The novelty of crafting something strange and new puts me in a different mindset, refreshes my brain, and (most importantly) gives me something tasty to munch on. Mind and body refreshed and awakened.

For me, one of the strange and exotic I before feared was jam, and subsequently, canning it. Now, all my previous canning experiences are what I would call catastrophes. There was that one time I accidentally dipped my arm into a pot of boiling water. There was the time the tomato sauce jar blew up in my hand, where afterwards a rousing game of "Is that blood or tomato sauce?" was enjoyed by all. The few times I wasn't injured resulted in the food going horribly wrong as in the black sludge-like strawberry jam that left my kitchen smelling like pure hate and despair coalesced into a deadly aroma of smoky pitch.

Somehow though this worked out. By luck, karma, or divine providence I made jam. Good jam. Really good jam.

Now after working non-stop on my Hemingway paper, this jam derives its genesis from Hemingway's short stories, novels, and memoir. I used a tin of canned apricots due to their importance in the short story "Big Two-Hearted River" in which the solitary character Nick downs a can of apricots claiming them to "be better than fresh." Canning in the 1920's was a relatively new concept at the time - women were saved time and soldiers had better access to healthier food, canning was to the 1920's what local and organic is to us today.

The Riesling is because it's fucking Hemingway. Alcohol must be used. Choosing the Riesling did take some time though as I and two wine guys at Whole Foods stood around discussing the principles of the project I was to undertake, what would pair well with apricots, and the many references to booze in Hemingway (so it's not like it was easy to pare it down as every beer, wine, liquor, and spirit known to man was game).

Finally the product itself - the jam. Catherine in the novel A Farewell to Arms becomes obsessed with breakfast as a means of psychologically and emotionally escaping her situation of being very pregnant and trying to row a boat during a storm from Italy to Switzerland to escape the Italian army. She feels that by focusing on breakfast she can displace her anxiety and stress from her precarious state.

Ah, but by now you are wondering what the jam tastes like? It is superb. The sugar from the tinned apricots really gave it a nice flavor. The Riesling adds a different layer of sweetness, one more clear and sharp, plus a slight spiciness. Lastly I put the kernels from the apricots pits in the jars to lend a slight almond profile to the jams. Delicious.

This is also a post to bring to your attention a little announcement. I have started a new blog entitled "The Rhetoric of Rhubarb." This blog will focus on my research which is often an intersection of food, psychology, sociology, literature, rhetoric and history I'll be doing in my grad program. An academic food blog of sorts. It'll be updated every Monday. If you want a bit of mental and analytical exercise I hope you'll hop on over and follow; I am encouraging debate, critique, questions and insights. It still needs some new paint and some styling, so be kind in its Version 1.0 phase.

Hemingway Inspired Apricot and Riesling Jam
4 cups of diced apricots
1 cup of canned apricots, (this should be an entire 15oz can, well drained)
2 + 3/4 cups of sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of Riesling
5 tablespoons of lemon juice
apricot kernels (optional)

1. Place the apricots, canned apricots, lemon juice, sugar, and Riesling in a stainless steel pot with high sides. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. If you want to use the kernels, take the pits outside and pop them on the concrete. Smack them firm and lightly with a hammer and extract the kernel. You may crush the first few but you'll figure it out quickly. 

3. Pour into sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe the rims with a wet tea towel. Place the lid on and screw on securing ring. Work quickly.

4. Wait for the tops to pop in creating a vacuum seal. Store in a cool place and eat within 3 months.


  1. I love it! Now I'm wondering how gin would fare in jam (very Hemingway inspired, no?) or go the gin and tonic route and do a lime marmalade with gin. I'm totally intimidated by jam making but you and others are inching me closer to biting the bullet and trying it! Thanks.

  2. Wow! It turned out fabulous Garrett! Love apricot jam to start with but add Riesling to it and this has to be awesome!

  3. Out of curiosity, Garrett -- What Reisling did you pick up? Finding a good one always seems to be a bit hit and miss, personally, and I'm really a little more inclined to trust others' experiences.

  4. Bansidhe: 2007 Rudolf Muller. German wine. Loved it so much I went back for another bottle, and I'm not a dessert wine person.

  5. Wow, that's some high praise re: the wine. :D I'll be sure to pick some up -- Thank you for sharing!

  6. Garrett, that looks fab and your new blog will be interesting!

  7. Sure, cuz a grad student has nothing better to do than write a *second* blog, right?

    Anyway, the jam sounds yum. I just cracked open a probably-too-old jar of apricot preserves we made, um, two years ago? and it was transcendentally good. Tart, not oversugared, almost pasty in texture, utterly unlike anything you can buy in the store. Hope I don't miss out on the apricots this year while we're bouncing around to Kentucky and San Diego.

  8. Just today my coworker and I were discussing canning, and I declared I was going to can my own jam this summer. I'll have to keep this recipe in my folder to try out.

  9. I'm impressed that you carry on canning goods after those disastrous finales. Yet, I also understand how you must not resist preserving the perfect pairing of apricot and Riesling.

  10. Oh this looks amazing. Apricot is my favorite. Would be great over a rummy pound cake. Will try and let you know how it goes!

  11. This looks delicious. The women of my family have always canned, but for it's been too intimidating to try on my own, for some reason. This makes it look worth trying!

  12. The way you described your canning experiences prior to this one were HILARIOUS. And this jam does look delicious.

  13. Um, hi. I know, five years later... You think I can skip the canned and just add more fresh apricot?

  14. I am not sure I understand the question… can you clarify?

  15. I am not sure I understand the question… can you clarify?


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