Jam session with the Kellys

"G.K. Chesterton says, ‘It is as healthy to enjoy sentiment as to enjoy jam,’” I announced to my husband Patrick as I spread some jam on my morning toast. “But clearly he wasn’t speaking of this jam,” I grimaced, after taking a bite of the Cascadian Farm Organics Apricot Fruit Spread, which had the texture of aloe vera ($3.49 for 10 ounces at Sprouts).

“I feel one of your taste tests coming on,” quipped Patrick.

A few days later, a group of us sat down for some tasting, including my dad.

“Gross. Too stiff and too sweet,” grimaced pal Gus, tasting the Safeway Kitchens Apricot Preserves ($2.79 for 18 ounces at Vons).

I agreed, adding, “It’s dry and it comes across as marmalade.”

Sprouts Apricot Preserves ($3.99 for 17.5 ounces) tasted like gelatin, “and the fruit bits in it are grainy,” added Patrick.

“I like the nice, round clumps of apricot in this Bonne Maman Apricot Preserves,” I said, staring at the unstirred jar ($5.79 for 13 ounces at Vons). “And it flows out of the jar, not just a blob of jelly.”

The Serious Food...Silly Prices Organic Apricot Fruit Spread was a winner ($2.99 for 10 ounces at Sprouts). “Apricot exploding in your mouth, tastes like mashed-up fruit,” I remarked.

Trader Joe’s Organic Reduced Sugar Apricot Preserves ($3.29 for 15.2 ounces) was the third hit. “The fresh apricot flavor fills the whole mouth,” I noticed.

Trader Joe’s Fresh Apricots ($3.49 for 17.5 ounces) rated lower than its organic brother. “I’m just getting sweet,” noticed Patrick. The Knott’s Berry Farm Pure Apricot Preserves suffered the same overly sweet dilemma ($4.69 for 16 ounces at Vons).

“This Organics Apricot Preserves is too stiff for me,” I said ($3.49 for 11 ounces at Vons). “I want my jam to flow a little bit.”

“But I do enjoy the fruit chunkiness to it,” argued Patrick.

“This one tastes like pie filling,” exclaimed Patrick, tasting a spoonful of Santa Cruz Organic Apricot Fruit Spread ($3.99 for 9.5 ounces at Sprouts).

“And it has the color and sticky texture of caramel,” I added.

The Safeway Select Apricot Preserves ($2.49 for 11.5 ounces at Vons) carried little fruit flavor, but the Albertsons Apricot Preserves ($3.99 for 18 ounces) was a surprise keeper. “Strong apricot; you can almost feel the fuzz on the skin of the apricots,” said Dad.

Randall Family Preserves Organic Apricot ($2.99 for 10 ounces at Whole Foods) did not make the cut and was set aside with the group of nonwinners. “It’s always deceiving to me,” I admitted, “when I see ‘organic,’ I assume it will also mean low sugar, but that certainly is not always the case.”

“This one hails from Italy,” sang Patrick, holding the jar of Capricci Del Bosco Apricot Jam ($4.99 for 12.35 ounces at Whole Foods). “Ship it back to Italy,” responded Dad, taking a lick. “I don’t get apricot from it.”

The jar of Tropical All Natural Apricot Preserves ($4.99 for 18 ounces at Albertsons) had a heavy syrupy taste to it, and the Always Apricot Natural Fruit Spread ($4.99 for 9.5 ounces at Whole Foods) was runny. “This is like a sauce I would put on a dessert,” noted Patrick.

The St. Dalfour Thick Apricot carried a diluted apricot flavor and reminded Patrick of restaurant single-serving jams ($3.99 for 10 ounces at Whole Foods). But the Ralphs Apricot Preserves ($3.29 for 18 ounces) made the keeper pile. “It has pleasant chunks of apricot in it, and it isn’t too sweet,” I offered.

Patrick raved about the Bionaturae Organic Apricot Fruit Spread ($4.49 for 9 ounces at People’s Organic Food Market). “This is my favorite,” he admitted, “chunks of fruit to chew on, and the apricot lingers with a delightful aftertaste.”

The last three were all winners: Smucker’s Low Sugar Apricot Preserves ($4.89 for 15.5 ounces at Vons), Dickinson’s Pure Patterson Apricot Preserves ($5.49 for 10 ounces at Ralphs), and the locally made Jackie’s Apricoty Jam ($6.49 for 8 ounces at Whole Foods). “This Jackie’s has a hint of ginger in it,” noticed Patrick. “It reminds me of the jam my mom used to make from the apricot tree in our backyard.”

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