There is nothing better than a ripe apricot—picked fresh from the tree and eaten right away. Dripping with juice, tasting intensely sweet with a tinge of acidity, eating an apricot is a truly sensual experience..
However, most of us will not experience this because today’s apricots are picked firm and then brought to the market. Most varieties grown today have little flavor, are usually pale, odorless and tart. If you want the old-fashioned apricots, look for Blenheims. This apricot got its name from the Duke of Marlborough’s garden at Blenheim Palace in England. Apricots were probably cultivated in China thousands of years ago. The Spaniards brought apricots to the New World and planted them in the mission gardens of California. If you are lucky, you can find Blenheims in the costal valleys of California
This year, I bought a crate (28 pounds) of apricots from one of the road stands in the central valley here in California. They were not Blenheims, but had been picked riper than the commercial kind. I don't know what kind of apricot I bought. They were okay, but I had bought a crate of apricots at the same farm stand the previous year and they were better. I put the apricots in a single layer in my cool downstairs bedroom and immersed myself into cooking them. Most of them became apricot jam. The jam turned out fabulously this year—smooth and velvety with a little crunch from the apricot kernels and texture from the skin. It was just the way we like it—sweet and tart at the same time. I would not omit the pits, as they really add a lot of flavor. For this years recipe, I used 10 pounds of apricots, 6 pounds of organic sugar, 16 cracked and roasted pits and 6 TBS of lemon juice. I was thinking about adding a vanilla bean or a cinnamon stick (or maybe some ginger), but in the end I did no such thing. I like my jam without any other flavors. The fruit itself is enough.
My husband likes my cobbler, and I baked two while I still had apricots. I like my cobbler because I use very little sugar, but it tastes delicious. I made the same cobbler for the 4th of July using peaches, blackberries and a few leftover blueberries.
I am very found of my German apricot cake with marzipan. It’s easy to make and a real treat for an afternoon tea. Or great for a picnic on a warm summer day.
My all-time favorite treat during apricot season are apricot dumplings. In Austria, they are considered a meal unto themselves. To make these, you need quark, a German soft cheese. Whole Foods and Shopper's Corner in Santa Cruz now carries quark.
While looking through back issues of my beloved Gourmet magazine from the month of June, I found a shrimp, jicama and apricot salad recipe. My husband loved this salad because it is crunchy, fresh and light. For me, the salad was a little bland, yet it was refreshing and elegant in its presentation. It is a perfect salad if you are counting your calories. I can imagine a salad like this being served decades ago in a fancy private club or hotel. Even though this is not my favorite salad, I decided to post it anyway.
A tart , fantastic tasting jam
My friends, Jacqueline and Heinz, have a beautiful sour cherry tree. These cherries live up to the word “sour”—or let's say tart. They make your mouth pucker. But they are absolutely delicious, very delicate with a soft skin and texture. This is not any commercial variety.
I am supposed to be getting ready for my 5-week long trip to Germany, with a hundred things to do before we leave—but I just had to have some of these cherries. I picked about three pounds. I ate a lot and made about 4 pint-sized jars of jam and a cherry clafoutis. The jam is to die for— it’s tart and carries the essence of these gorgeous cherries. I like to eat it mixed with yogurt, on a piece of toast, or in my cherry chocolate tart. The icky part of making this jam is pitting the cherries. My husband volunteered for this very messy job, bless his heart. It took him 30 minutes to pit those little buggers with a cherry pitter, although he did watch the baseball game with one eye while pitting. You have to wear an apron and and short sleeves. Our cutting board now has cute little red spots.
I wasn't going to blog this, but changed my mind. I'm starting to like taking photos, plus I have this cute hand-painted cherry platter made by a local artist Beth Grippenstraw in Santa Cruz, California. (check out her work, fun and very unusual). I used David Leibovitz's recipe for the jam, he calls it no recipe jam.
A marmalade that is great on toast, but will also enhance your cooking
I love really love the taste of citrus. One of my favorite snacks is candied orange peel. So it is no surprise that I also love orange marmalade. It is not just ordinary orange marmalade—it is blood orange marmalade, which has a more intensive orange flavor. There are different kinds of blood oranges. This year, I have been buying organic Moro oranges at our local farmers market, which are the most colorful blood oranges of them all. The juice of a Moro orange is rich in anthocyanin, which may help prevent a fatty liver (according to wikipedia). I make this marmalade not only for buttered toast, but to use in sauces, fruit compotes, cakes and crepes. However you use it, it adds flavor and richness. I used this marmalade to make the ganache for my chocolate tart.
The recipe comes from a beautiful calendar that a friend sends me every year from Germany. He took over this tradition when my father passed away many years ago. He is so sweet and I appreciate it so much. Thank you, Ekkerhard Lindner and family.
Two Different Jams Baked In The Oven
The easiest jam ever, I promise, no fuss, no mess, just let it bake in the oven. Once in a while you can take a peek. Don't be tempted to stir before you have quite bit of liquid in the pan. My mom told me that she never stirred because she was too busy doing other things. I stirred at the end mashing the fruit. I wanted to incorporate the plum skins into the jam. A word of caution, this jam is tart and I mean tart. You might want to consider increasing the sugar. I like having different kinds of jam in the house. At Christmas this one will be a treat on French brie or cream cheese.
I made another small batch with plums and blackberries using more sugar. This one turned out sweeter, more like a traditional jam and my husband liked it.
30 Jars of Jam
It began a week ago when Ronald, a local organic farmer, told me that his strawberries were just right for making my jam and I knew I had to do it soon because I'm going to Germany in a couple of weeks.
With that in mind I stocked up on organic sugar that I like to use (this sugar is not as fine as regular sugar) and made sure I had enough jars and lids. For some time I kept a recipe for homemade pectin and this was the year I was going to try it. Last year I made strawberry jam, and mixed fruit jam, using strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and my rhubarb that I grow in my tiny little plot in front of my house. My husband's favorite is the mixed berry jam. He likes his jams spreadable and I like mine runny, dripping off my toast, and excellent over vanilla ice cream. Last year I had used powdered pectin to give the mixed berry jam the consistency my husband likes.
On Saturday I visited my friend's Birgit and Robert, who have a wonderful piece of property, where Robert has planted a variety of usual fruit trees, berries, and a fantastic vegetable garden. It is a cooks paradise. We picked several pints of ripe blackberries and some green apples, not quite ready to eat but great for my homemade pectin.
On Sunday morning I bought my flat of strawberries from Ronald at the farmer's market. At the market I also noticed that, "Dirty Girls,” another local farm, (I love the name) had strawberries for jam on sale. I couldn't resist and bought another half flat. Here I was with 19 pints of strawberries and some additional fruit waiting at home.
I spent a glorious week in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in our little cabin. To get there we have to go through the central valley of California, the fruit basket of our nation. Many farms sell their produce on site . Right now the apricots are ripe and I couldn't resist. So here I was with pounds and pounds of wonderful apricots, 2 boxes to be precise.
First I gave all my neighbors and friends some, then I made jam with 10 pounds. I used Alice Water's recipe from her "Chez Panisse Fruit Book." I loved the first batch so much that I made another one. I tweaked her recipe by using less sugar and more lemon juice.
Each time I doubled her recipe. The first time I let the apricots and sugar stand overnight in a covered bowl , stirring several times. For the second batch I let the apricots and sugar stand for a couple of hours but I added the juice of a lemon . This time I stirred often and the sugar dissolved faster.
I like my jam soft with pieces of fruit.
Whenever I am cooking and children are around I like to involve them, even if they only get to lick the bowl. I find that children are curious and love to be involved in preparing food. It takes time and patience but it is worth it. At this stage in my life I have to borrow children from my friends.
Last week my friend Britt visited, bringing her daughter and her four grandchildren. I decided to make crêpes with them. The day before I prepared two different batters, one savory, and one sweet crepe batter.
I put out different fillers for them to choose and make their own. For the savory crêpes I used cooked turkey ham, cheddar cheese, avocados, and cherry tomatoes. For the sweet crêpes I bought an organic hazelnut spread ( a little healthier than Nutella, but still yummy ), different homemade jams, soft, spreadable cream cheese, fresh strawberries , blueberries, chocolate sauce, bananas , nuts, and chocolate covered pomegranate seeds.
We cooked the crêpes together, and Ruby, the oldest, was able to make perfect crêpes at the end. The savory ones were their favorite, they loved cutting the cheese on their individual cutting boards. We had a lot of fun together and I was happy to be around children .
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means a lot to me and I love to hear from you .
Comments in English and German are welcome!
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