So yesterday, I went to the Winn Dixie to get dog kibble. You know, just a 20-minute errand. But Crystal Nails is right next door, so I stopped in and got my toes done. It’s sandal season! Then I gingerly made my way over to WD, careful not to smudge my coral toes. I hate it when that happens. As I was heading for the dog food aisle, the fact that my toes were done inspired me to pick up some eyeliner. What good does it do to have your toes done if your eyes aren’t lined? The makeup is over by the wine section, so I decide to pick up a nice bottle. Heading back over to the dog food, I spied these gorgeous apricots. Naturally, I bought six pounds of apricots, because they are precious and rare! At least, they are precious and rare at Winn Dixie in Monticello, Florida. People were looking at me funny, buying up all the apricots. Two hours after I left Cowlick, I was back on the scene. I even remembered the dog kibble!
About the apricots. Originally from China, apricots are in season through August here in the states. With a velvety skin that’s wonderful to touch, their intense flavor is sort of a cross between a plum and a peach. Apricots are really good for you, as they are packed with antioxidants and fiber. They are also sexy.
There are delicious things to do with apricots, aside of just eating them right out of your hand. Use your imagination! Use mine! Six pounds of apricots will make a sublime batch of jam, sweet and tart and tasting of summer. Another couple of pounds will go into a Spicy Bourbon-Apricot Barbecue Sauce to be slathered on the pulled pork my husband has been smoking all night. I’ll be posting that recipe later. And the last few apricots? Well, those little babies—the most perfect ones, will be infused Hendrick’s gin for cocktails next weekend. Are you with me? Here we go!
Until I started making my own jams, they were pretty much relegated to toast and peanut butter sandwiches. Then Natalie brought me an old preserving book from the library, and I started making jams with locally-sourced fruits, and jalapeno peppers, and a glug of bourbon or brandy. The freshness and intense flavors of small-batch jams is incomparable to anything you buy at the store. And you can use them to liven up all kinds of foods. Jam is fantastic on a cheese plate (try apricot jam with a good blue cheese), cooked down into a glaze for meats, even stirred into a jamtini! It doesn’t take long to get the hang of making jam—just make sure you follow the proper procedures if you plan to store it over time. If you want to get started with preserving, the Ball web site is a good resource.
3 pounds apricots, washed, halved and pitted
2 cups organic sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
In the morning, bright and early, slice the apricots. In a medium bowl, gently toss the apricots with the sugar. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the apricots macerate in the sugar for about 4 hours. Have six half pint jars sterilized and hot. Transfer the apricot mixture to a large saucepan and add the lemon juice. Simmer over medium low heat, uncovered and stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the jam is thick, about 20-25 minutes. I use a potato masher to help break the fruit down. Skim the foam from the top of the jam, then ladle the jam into the hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Apricot-Thyme Infused Gin
I have been experimenting with alcohol infusions this spring. Because I don’t have enough interests and passion in my life. Ha! Infusions are a fun and easy way to preserve fresh fruits and herbs, and my goodness, they are delicious! Try fresh cherries in small-batch bourbon, or bay leaves in vodka. The possibilities are limitless. Stock up on the good stuff–vodka, bourbon and gin come to mind, and try some infusions with us. I’ll be sharing some of our favorites as we work our way through the gardening season.
2 cups Hendrick’s or other good quality gin
3 apricots, washed, halved and pitted
3 sprigs fresh thyme
In a clean, wide-mouthed Mason jar, combine the two cups Hendrick’s gin with the apricots and fresh thyme. Store the jar in a cool, dark place, and give it a little shake every day. After a week, sample the infusion and see if it’s to your taste. Let it sit for a day or two longer, trying not to sample too often. When it’s ready, strain the alcohol through a sieve or coffee filter, and discard the solids. Return the infusion to the jar and seal tightly. Will keep until your friends come over.
To make a cocktail, pour the apricot-thyme gin over crushed ice and add a splash of soda water. Garnish with a lime wedge and a sprig of thyme.