You Make a Living from What You Get - But You Make a Life from What You Give

venerdì 29 giugno 2012


It's apricot season and the branches of our tree in the garden are laden with what the Ancient Greeks called the 'golden eggs of the sun'.  They beckon to be picked and are at their best eaten immediately under the tree, to savour the summer warmth captured in their roseblushed skin, and the intense delicous sweetness of the fruit.
But not all can be eaten thus, and so we take baskets and hats to fill to the brim, to make into jars and jars of apricot jam.
Apricots are particularly adapted for even novice jam makers as they contain a medium amount of pectine making the whole process very straight forward, as they tend not to over or underset.

Recipe courtesy of Waitrose:

1kg Apricots - not too ripe

750 gm caster sugar

Cut small apricots in half and large apricots into quarters and discard the stones. Mix the fruit and sugar together in a large container, cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a cool, dry place for 18 hours.

Place a few saucers in the freezer so that they're cold enough for testing later. Preheat the oven to 140°C/gas 1, then sterilise and warm 2 jam jars in the oven.

Put the mixture in a pan and bring to the boil on a high heat. Reduce to a medium heat and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Test the jam when the juice has thickened and the bubbles are large – the setting point has been reached when a drop placed on a chilled saucer forms a skin that’s visible when lightly pushed.

Remove from the heat and ladle into dry, warm jars. Tighten the lids and turn each pot upside down until cool. Store in a cool place for up to 6 months.


Apricots are a species of Prunus, and are often thought to have orginated in Armenia where they were extensively cultivated in ancient times - in fact their scientific name 'Prunus Armeniaca' hints at this.

However, it is more probable that they originated in China where they were first cultivated over 4,000 years ago near the border with Russia.  I like to imagine groves of Apricot trees blossoming under the shadow of the Great Wall.

Italian Amaretto liqueur and Amaretti biscuits whose flavour is generally attributed to almonds are instead nearly always flavoured with the oil extract of apricot kernels.

Apricots contain the highest levels and widest variety of the antioxident, caretenoids, leading them to be used in medical research, and thought also to be effective against heart disease and some cancers, although for now their curing qualities have not yet been scientifically proved.

Even today in China the apricot is strongly associated with medicine and education and there is an overall common useage of apricot kernels in traditional Chinese medicinal practises.

The biggest production of apricots is found in Turkey, then Iran and, rather romantically, the Himalayas.  California also has a high production and it is thought that they were introduced by the intrepid Spanish, whilst their presence in Southern Europe can be attributed to Alexander the Great who, maybe munching on one as he entered the country and tossing the kernel casually to one side before officially presenting himself, brought them to Greece in 4th century BC.

Solzhenitsyn wrote 'Apricot Jam and Other Stories' on his return to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.

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