Ever wonder what it means when one of my recipes suggests you macerate your fruit? Well first of all, it depends on whether you're using fresh or dried fruit for your recipe.
When macerating fresh fruit, the easiest way to great results is to sprinkle sugar over prepared fresh fruit, give it a little stir to be sure each piece of fruit is covered with the sugar, then let it sit for awhile, preferably overnight. The sugar will pull the naturally-sweet juices from the fruit, and the fruit's juices plus the sugar will create a gorgeous syrup.
Fresh Rhubarb, Orange Zest & Fresh Ginger Root
If using dried fruit, you'll want to add some type of liquid, like fruit juice or water. The dried fruit will absorb the liquid, and in no time at all your dried fruit will plump up quite nicely. Don't add sugar yet...some dried fruit, like pineapple, has almost always been sweetened before you buy it.
Dried Apricots in Water
Dried Apricots After Soaking 24 Hours
Get creative with maceration!
Add different types of sweeteners, like honey, agave nectar or maple syrup. Or add a vanilla bean.
Apricots Macerating With A Vanilla Bean
Add whole spices, like star anise.
Or fresh herbs, like basil or lemon verbena.
Fresh Lemon Verbena & Lemon Zest (and sugar) added to Italian Plums
Pour a big ol' shot of good bourbon on your fresh peaches. The alcohol will cook out, leaving nothing but flavor.
Or add some rosé wine into your ripe red raspberries. Again, the alcohol cooks out but the richness of the rosé remains.
Maybe add some dried currants, nuts or crystallized ginger.
Dried Apricot Conserve with Currants & Walnuts
Zest a lemon, orange or lime before cutting it in half and adding its juice to the maceration mix.
In the case of fresh fruit, maceration starts as soon as you add the sugar so even letting it sit for an hour or two helps to break down the fruit and extract the juices, but its best to let it sit overnight. Some people like the way the overnight process cuts their jam-making project in half, especially when they don't have the time nor the energy to do prep, cooking, and the filling & processing of the jars all the same day.
I have let fruit macerate for as little as 30 minutes, or as much as 3 or 4 days, a week or even 10 days, and if you come up with the right combination of ingredients, your results will be delicious either way. Different, but both delicious.
Note: Some people like to heat the sugar-fresh fruit mixture together long enough for the sugar to dissolve, then remove it from the heat and set it aside overnight so it can macerate even more. This works beautifully, but it's an added step that isn't always necessary. It's all up to you.