I remember the first time I ate an apricot. It was my first time in California, I was visiting family in Woodside, and I bought an apricot at the local market because it felt so California to me. And also because I'd never seen a fresh apricot.
I experienced what many people experience when they bite into a fresh apricot. The flesh was mealy, the flavor underwhelming, the skin spongy. I did not eat another fresh apricot for about six years and I gave them another try only grudgingly.
If you've ever thought these apricot things are so mealy and yucky...i contemplate eating them because i really want a fresh peach and the peaches aren't ready, well then, this post is for you. see, apricots deepen in flavor when cooked, and the mushy complaint of their texture turns soft. How, exactly, you say?
image by max xx
Close your eyes and think of a peach pie. You know how the peaches are bright, how they taste like you think yellow would if yellow had a taste? How they're probably one-dimensionally sweet from all the sugar added in the pie? When you cook apricots like this, don't be surprised if you turn down the next piece of peach pie someone offers you.
Pit and halve a bunch of apricots. Put them in a pot with some sugar and a splash of water. If you have a vanilla bean, you can throw one in. Apricots and vanilla really sing. If you've got a good honey, you can use some honey. What else could you use? Chamomile, dark brown sugar, brandy, lemon. This is not a list of ANDs, however. It's a list of ORs. Any item on this list will complement the apricots, but so that you understand the beauty and complexity of an apricot once it's cooked, choose sugar plus one, or even a rich type of sugar like muscovado or maple or demerara. Something special.
Cook the apricots plus sugar plus water (plus extra) over medium heat. Let's say you have six to eight apricots. I would add 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar. You can always add more sugar but you can't take it out. The fruit will start to break down and release its juices. Continue cooking until the juices thicken. I'm not going to give you a more exact recipe than that, but I will answer questions. You will be left with a delicious compote that I like to serve warmed over vanilla ice cream.
Learning how to cook apricots will change your life. If you're lactose intolerant, spoon them over soy yogurt with granola for breakfast, and if you hate sweets grab a nice cheese and good bread because this compote is versatile, easy, cheap and delicious. Promise. If you get inspired to try this and make a new, fun combo, let me know.