Stone Fruit Week – Apricots

Mmmm. . . Apricots.  I get so excited when I see them in the farmer’s market each year.  They are only really in season for a few weeks at the end of spring / beginning of summer, so I gobble them up while I can.  If you get them too early or too late they just aren’t as good.

Like their cousins peaches and plums, the apricot came from China and made its way westward along the Silk Road.  The ancient Greeks called them the “golden egg of the sun.”  Apricots are now grown in warm, temperate regions such as parts of Asia, the Mediterranean, the western United States, Turkey, Armenia, and Australia. 

Apricots are very delicate and therefore do not ship well, so most of them are dried, canned, turned into preserves, or otherwise processed.  If you find yourself with a bumper crop of apricots you can dry them yourself by cutting them in half and removing the pits, and either place them in the oven at its lowest setting or placing them in the sun on a rack until they are dark red.  You can then flatten them out with your fingers.  I think I will try this next year.  They can be rehydrated later by soaking them in cool water for 2 hours.  Dried apricots are great in savory dishes such as bread stuffing and rice pilaf, as well as stewed and served as an accompaniment to meats.

You can also preserve apricots “au naturel” by cutting them in half to remove the pits, then putting the halves back together again.  Stuff them tightly into a canning jar and screw on the lids.  You don’t need to add water or sugar.  Loosen the bands on the lid a quarter turn, and place the jars in a large pot of lukewarm water.  Bring the water to 195 degrees Fahrenheit, and maintain for 15-20 minutes.  Remove the jars from the water, seal them, and store them away for the winter.

Apricoting is the yummy process of putting apricot jam through a fine sieve, then spreading it on a cake or other sweet.  This gives it a glossy look.  If you are putting fondant on a cake, it is easier if you apricot it first.

Apricot pits contain a kernel which tastes and smells like almonds.  In fact, almond extract is often actually made from the apricot kernel.  If you are stewing or poaching apricots or making jam, throw a few kernels in to give them a slight bitter almond flavor.

Trivia – My wedding cake had apricot preserves between each layer.  That was the best cake ever.

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