The apricot is the first fruit tree in the backyard to ripen. From the lounge room window I notice the fruit first. After months of leaves camouflaging the green fruit, I now notice some hints of plush orange bobbing in the wind.
I suspect the apricot is the longest standing fruit tree in our garden. Many of the established trees were planted several decades ago by a thoughtful, precious owner. Rumour has it that he used to cover the root base with old carpet to keep the tree snugly through the frigid winter up our valley.
The now large gnarled apricot sits along the south border of our property, spreading its long limbs over the chicken run. For the first five years we lived here it produced nada, not one fruit was seen on the tree. Then after a thorough chainsaw pruning, on advice from a wise gardener, the tree has produced some impressive harvests since.
The preserving pan can run hot for many weeks to keep up with the excess fruit. With the spring winds and rain I wasn’t holding up much hope for this season but this chameleon apricot has been hiding its offspring. As they ripen under the warm summer sun I can see we have more than enough for a jam session or two.
Preferring to keep the sugar minimal in my home preserving I make a Scandinavian-inspired fruit conserve. The difference being that the apricots are slow cooked until thick and syrupy then sugar is added to taste at the end. Or not at all if preferred. This creates a soft-set conserve with full fruit flavour.
The essential requirement with low-sugar preserves is scrupulous sterilising protocol.
Either boil jars and lids for 10 minutes before carefully draining and drying on a rack, or place clean jars on a tray in a cold oven and heat to 120C (boil lids for 10 minutes). Whichever method you use, work thoughtfully and fill hot sterile jars with piping hot conserve.
FREE-FORM APRICOT CONSERVE
Halve 3-4kg of apricots and remove stones (other fleshy stone fruit can also be used).
Place fruit in a larger pan. A wide shallow pan with a heavy bottom works best for even cooking and to prevent sticking.
Add 2 tablespoons water and cover with a lid.
Heat gently over a low heat and cook for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, and then more frequently near the end of cooking to avoid burning.
Once the fruit has softened into a thick syrup, add sugar to taste and stir to dissolve. For 3-4 kg fruit I use around 1 cup sugar.
Cook for a further 5 minutes then spoon into the hot, sterlised jars. Secure lids, name and date, and consume within 3 months.
APRICOT & SOUR CREAM CLAFOUTIS
This simple summer dessert takes minimal effort to prepare using any combination of summer fruit. Leftovers make an agreeable breakfast the next day with a splash of cream.
- Preparation time: 10 minutes
- Cooking time: 30 minutes
- ½ cup flour (gluten-free: use gluten-free flour mix)
- 2/3 cup milk
- 100g sour cream
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar or honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 10-12 apricots, halved and stones removed
Preheat the oven to 190C. Generously grease a 25cm round glass or ceramic tart dish with butter.
Place the flour into a bowl and slowly add the milk while whisking to create a smooth paste. Add the sour cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla, and whisk well to combine. Set aside for 10 minutes for the starch in the flour to bloom.
Prepare the apricots and arrange in the base of the tart dish. Pour the custard around the apricots and carefully place in the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes until the custard is just set.
Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar and drizzled with cream.