Have you ever eaten a perfectly ripe apricot straight from the tree? It tastes like sunshine. When I was growing up we had an apricot tree in our yard. In late June, when its branches were heavy with perfectly orange apricots, I would sit underneath it and eat until I was sick. Despite my mother’s warning and plea for self-restraint, I just couldn’t resist over-indulging on the deliciously juicy fruit.
Now I live in San Francisco, and I begrudgingly wear wool June-August. But occasionally I escape the fog and experience what summer is like for most of the northern hemisphere. A week ago I was invited to sunnier parts of the state to pick organic Blenheim apricots with a friend and her family. Or, as her adorable four year old put it, to go “apricoting.”
Turns out I only have slightly more self-control than I did when I was seven. I picked way too many apricots, but at least I didn’t put them all in my mouth in one sitting. Instead, I made apricot preserves. And now, even though it’s foggy outside my window, I have summer in a jar. The great thing about canning is that you not only preserve the food for later use, but you preserve the feeling of the season too. It’s easier than it seems. Here’s what you do: wash the apricots, tear them in half and remove the pit, put the fruit in a big pot and cook them down. You can add a bit of sugar or honey, or even some cinnamon or nutmeg if you’re in to that sort of thing.
After it’s cooked you can store in mason jars in your fridge (up to a few weeks) or can* them and they will keep for much longer (up to six months). What could be easier? Well, okay, I suppose popping them in your mouth is easier. But this is easy too! You should try it.
Apricot preserves are delicious spread over goat cheese, on top of yogurt, or on crepes. You could even add some chopped onions and jalepeno and slather on some chicken breast. The possibilities are endless, and a jar of apricot preserves makes a great homemade gift.
4 lbs fresh apricots (I used Blenheim, but any variety will work)
Juice of 1-2 lemons
1 cinnamon stick, or a pinch of nutmeg (optional)
3 Tbs honey (to taste)
2 Tbs brown sugar (to taste)
Wash and pit the apricots. Place fruit in a large stockpot over medium heat. As they begin to heat up and soften, mash the fruit. Add in fresh squeezed lemon juice, honey and/or sugar to taste and the cinnamon stick and nutmeg if you are using it. You don’t need to add any sugar or honey at all. If you left it out, then we could call this recipe paleo! But if you like it on the sweeter side, then add sugar and/or honey until you get the desired sweetness. Note that the fruit gets sweeter the longer it cooks, so you might want to let it cook awhile before adding more sugar. Cook uncovered, for approx. 40 minutes while stirring occasionally until it reaches desired consistency. Remove cinnamon stick. If you are canning, read directions below. If not, spoon out the preserves into mason jars and keep in the fridge. This recipe is very flexible; you can make preserves with more or less apricots; just adjust your sweetener to taste. About 4 lbs of apricots yields approx. 6 half-pint jars.
If you are canning
Sterilize jars and lids in boiling water for at least 15 minutes (or in a dishwasher if you are fancy). Fill jars with preserves, leaving 1/2 inch space at the top. Cover with lid and metal ring. Process in a water bath for 20 minutes (if using half pint jars) or 25 minutes (if using pint jars). Carefully remove the jars from water and let cool completely before storing. Storing your canned goods without the metal ring makes them easier to stack, and easier to tell if they’ve spoiled.
* Note: canning can be dangerous if not done properly. Be sure that all of your equipment is sterilized and clean, and follow official canning guidelines to determine the appropriate way to fill your jars and the amount of time to process them in the water bath. Let’s not mess around with botulism, okay?