ventures on apricots
my friend sumner owns four apricot trees, which even in a bad year is three too many. and this year was a good year! i’m up to my eyeballs in apricots, he groans.
apricot, abrecock, praecox, praikokion, preciously provident names for the early ripe virtue of a fain cowrie mound. the wild apricot, the armenian apple hailing from china so long ago, has also been known as eve’s fruit resembling her cleft. a plum in disguise, the blush of the fruit’s pubescent skin is often tinged red in aprication. how apropos is this word for an apricot. my grandfather planted such a tree when i was born. i believe it turned me a glutton for the ripe fruit warmed by a late afternoon sun.
i love the apricots of early summer. in my kitchen they adopt easily to a wide range of food; fish, fowl, but much so with pork, famous to meld flavor and fragrance.
but what to do with sumner’s excess? i suggested two notions: one for jam, the other for drying. i dry fruit overnight and during the following day in a one-fifty oven and tell the story of a man walking down a hollow towards a village in persia. how a warm wind brought the aroma of drying apricots and as he walked further and saw the first houses, of the sight of flat rooftops apricot colored. in the morning i keep my eyes closed and i’m in persia. the drying works fine: half the fruit, ditch the stone and lay out a single pattern, pit side up, on a rack at a time.
but i’m into jam, and here is how i do it:
i use a stainless pan, big enough to hold the fruit with plenty of room on the top.
1 cup sugar (my sugar is laced with the remnants and scrapes of vanilla), straight is ok.
about 2 lbs fresh apricots, halved and stoned
2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
melt the sugar over high heat. stir a lot. add a little water if the stuff gets too dark. add all the apricots and stir to coat well. simmer and trouble the fruit until it turns soft, then ladle about two-thirds into a bowl to cool. continue cooking the rest until fairly liquid, about thirty-five minutes. stir often to prevent scorching. add the lemon juice and the reserved fruit and continue cooking for another ten, or so, minutes. by that time the jam will have thickened, though sirupy, still recognizable as fruit. turn off the heat, but keep stirring. you want the jam to cool down evenly. when the apricots are still warm, but beginning to set, i like to add some small amount of my best smoky whisky. like a table spoon to the pint. i understand that you might consider this wasteful, but it is my jam and i like it that way.
i don’t do the canning routine. i freeze the jam in small zip-locks or i serve it (most likely) right away on next morning’s well buttered toast.