Avid for apricots

Fragrant orbs fit for a top-shelf jam

Helen Farrell
June 3, 2018 - 16:47

Summer’s (almost) here when apricots appear on supermarket shelves. We love their natural blush, as if the fruit’s feigning embarrassment at their own goodness.

 

These fragrant orbs are loved by all, including the flies often found buzzing around them. Faintly furry and fabulously sweet, apricots are perfect popped into your bag in the morning and eaten for elevenses. As temperatures rise, chill and savour them in the afternoon instead of a gelato.

 

A distant relative of the plum, peach and cherry, the apricot tree made its way from east to west, from China via Armenia, thanks to Alexander the Great, and eventually to Italy due to the Arab conquest, hence the etymology deriving from the Arabic al-barquq.

 

Not long ago, the fruit jammed local headlines as University of Pisa researchers planted more than a hundred ancient varieties in Venturina, near Livorno, in order to establish the best native apricots. Thirty of them made the cut, including the “Pisana”, an apricot with a reddish orange skin.

 

If it’s an apricot food festival you’re craving, you’ll have to head north over the border into Emilia-Romagna, where the small town of Casalfiumanese—population 3,441—has been celebrating the fruit since the 1970s. This year’s Sagra dell’Albicocca will take place on June 27 and 28.

 

High in vitamins essential for healthy skin, forget the fake tan and graze on these natural bronzing accelerants, although the advice is not to feast on overripe apricots as they are renowned to spark an unwanted laxative effect.

 

Best eaten in their natural glory, apricots are delicious cooked with sugar and lemon juice into a jam (see the recipe below), sliced and layered in a tart with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream, or just as an addition to a summer fruit salad.

 

 

 

Ph. Brigittte Tohm via Unsplash

 


Apricot jam  

Makes about 3 jars

 

Ingredients

1kg very ripe apricots
600g brown sugar
1 vanilla pod, scored and halved
Juice of 1 lemon

 

Method

Cut the apricots in half and remove the stones, setting aside a few of them.

Transfer the halved apricots into a jam pan. Add the brown sugar and the vanilla pod. Squeeze in the lemon juice. Stir and leave to macerate for several hours.

Wrap the apricot stones in a tea cloth, smash them with a hammer (it’s remarkably therapeutic!) and remove the kernels. Blanch in boiling water for 1 minute, plunge into cold water and remove the skins. Divide in half and add to the fruit.

Cook the apricots over low heat, stirring until the sugar has been dissolved completely. Turn up the heat and boil for 25 minutes, or until thick.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 30 minutes. Bottle the jam in warm sterilised jars, making sure that the almond kernels and vanilla are equally divided (they add extra flavour). Cover and seal with the lids.

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