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Apricot Preserves

4 pounds ripe apricots
1/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice
6 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons butter

Blanch half the apricots in batches by placing them in boiling water for about 15 seconds, then removing them with a slotted spoon and dropping them into a bowl of cold water and ice. Drain the apricots, strip off their skins and quarter them.

Halve and quarter the remaining apricots, skins and all, discarding the pits. (If you prefer, you could leave the apricots unpeeled; I believe that leaving half with the skins on makes a nice balance in flavor and texture.)

Combine the apricots and lemon juice in a non-aluminum bowl and mix them gently with a rubber spatula to distribute the lemon juice. Add the sugar and mix again.

Set the mixture aside for a several hours (as long as two days in the refrigerator), stirring gently a few times. Most of the sugar will be dissolved at this point, and the entire mixture will appear quite juicy.

When ready to proceed with the recipe, wash 7 half-pint jars. Keep hot until needed. Prepare lids as manufacturer directs. Transfer the apricot mixture to a large pot and set the pot over medium heat. Add the butter and bring the mixture to a boil, then adjust the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring fairly constantly to keep from scorching. Quite a bit of foam is produced and should be skimmed off with a spoon.

Now you have to use a bit of judgment. After 15 minutes, if the surface of the jam begins to look very "glisteny," and the bubbles seem thick and shiny, remove from heat. Otherwise, give the mixture up to 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and skim additional foam, if necessary. Let the preserves sit about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Ladle into 1 hot jar at a time, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe rim with a clean, damp cloth. Attach lid. Fill and close remaining jars. Process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (15 minutes from 1,000 to 6,000 feet; 20 minutes above 6,000 feet).

This recipe yields 7 half-pints.

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