I’ve never had an apricot. I’ve had apricot jelly and dried apricots, but never a fresh apricot, right off the tree. They do grow on trees too. They are similar to the prune and are also considered a drupe because they have a stone (or pit) in the center. They are not native to New England. Most experts agree that apricots came originally from Armenia as archeologists have found apricot seeds dating back to the copper age in that area. They are still native to that area today. In the 1700’s, English settlers introduced apricots to the New World and today, there are apricot trees and farms throughout California and the West. But not in New England. Too cold here for that.
My grandfather used to drink apricot juice and that’s my first memory of an apricot. It was the canned kind and definitely not the fresh, organic variety you would seek out today. I remember the cans being in my grandmother’s fridge. I remember seeing a glass of the juice on my grandfather’s TV tray. It had a dark orange hue to it and it looked thick. It looked gross too. I never wanted any part of it. Nope, not for me. It’s funny to recall that and even now, when I try to think of what that juice smelled like, I can only remember the smell of unfiltered Camel cigarettes. Funny what memories we hold in our head when it comes to smells.
Apricots are an early bloomer, in terms of fruit, but their peak season runs similar to the seasons of peaches and nectarines. The California apricot crop wraps up in late July. The Washington apricot season runs from June to August. The month of August pretty much exclusively belongs to Washington apricots while the Michigan sees some late varieties ripening in September.* The frustrating part of that is that they are not in season in January, not even close, so it becomes a tough day to celebrate. I didn’t even try to find a fresh apricot because I knew that would be futile. My celebration would have to be with dried apricots leaving me still yearning for the taste of a nice fresh apricot. Maybe this summer – it’s only six months away.
Dried apricots never look particularly appetizing. They have a bright orange color but they feel oddly fleshy. Lola described it best by saying she felt like she was eating an ear. I imagine that’s exactly what an ear tastes like too (Mike Tyson may have to clear that up for us). They are sweet in taste and chewy, like most dried fruit, but there’s also a blandness to them too. I picked up a small tub of them at Clements. They were billed as Turkish Apricots and apparently they have a milder flavor than the California apricots. Turkish was my only choice however, so I went with that. I thought about what I could make with it and looked at some recipes online. There were a few sweet concoctions I could make, although most called for fresh apricots, but I decided to go savory instead. I was just feeling that. I decided on a recipe for Dried Apricots with Blue Cheese.
The recipe was easy enough. It had you take blue cheese and cream cheese and mix it together. Then you would spread that on the top of the apricot. Next, chop up fresh parsley and sprinkle atop the cheese and then finish with a pecan half that was warmed in a pan to bring out the nutty flavor. They looked good, but in truth they were just ok. The recipe called for enough to make 64 and that was way too many, so I tried to cut the recipe down and in doing so, I may have messed up the cheese proportions. But also, the recipe seemed to be a bit confusing because it called for two 3 ounce packages of cream cheese. As far as I know, there is no such thing as a 3 ounce container of cream cheese – usually they are in 8 ounce bricks. I felt it was a typo and the recipe was actually calling for two 8 oz packages of cream cheese. That’s what I used as my denominator in my blue cheese/cream cheese formula that I was trying to reduce. In short, something got screwed up there, I think. But the cheese part was still tasty. It could have used some more blue cheese, but that’s not the taste that was off. The overwhelming taste was the fresh parsley, so maybe I used too much of that. All the flavors just didn’t mix well together. It wasn’t gross, it just never worked as a combination of flavors. Lola said she felt like she was on a cooking show where someone was given four ingredients and then created something that was pretty, but just didn’t work. I’ll agree with her there.
Sometimes that’s how it goes. You are up for the challenge and you give it your best, but it just doesn’t come out the way you intended. What I did realize was that I really do want to try a perfectly ripe apricot when the season is right. I think it will be tasty so I have that to look forward too. I also ate about a dozen dried apricots today which has upped my apricot intake from 2016 twelve-fold. I am bursting with the nutrients that we get from apricots including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E and niacin (not too mention my fiber levels). That’s a good thing. So I made a recipe I wasn’t a fan of? It happens. I’ve moved on. It will happen again. But I tried and I celebrated. That’s what this is all about so in the end, that’s a good day.
Next Up: National Bittersweet Chocolate Day
*info from EatLikeNoOne.com