My husband and I spent the first week of July on a sailboat in the Sea of Abaco, Bahamas, sailing from island to island. I had never spent any time in the Caribbean before our trip, and while the beaches and turquoise water were breathtakingly beautiful, what really blew my mind were the coconut trees. EVERYWHERE. It was rare that we would see a tree not laden with at least ten pale green orbs. We found fallen coconuts every day and whacked them open on rocks, drinking fresh coconut water and eating the creamy white flesh with our hands.
In urban areas, we saw landscaping with cherimoya trees and bananas, also plentiful and ready to be picked. “This is amazing!” we’d say. “There’s fruit everywhere!” We flew back to Salt Lake City already longing for the ready availability of tropical fruit, knowing that our supermarket bananas and coconuts would come with a heftier price tag and carbon footprint.
Well, what Salt Lake City lacks in coconuts and bananas, it more than makes up for in apricots. We arrived home to find our neighbor’s tree drooping from the weight of thousands of tiny orange fruit, which they (and we, because our neighbors rock) have been working frantically to harvest and preserve before the fruit drops and becomes road jam. We barely have to nudge a branch before hundreds of just-ripe apricots rain down, and we’ve taken to standing underneath the tree with a picnic blanket to catch the falling fruit. (Fun fact: 10 out of 10 scientists agree that it is better to be beaned in the face with an apricot than a coconut.)
If you’ve happened to look skyward while traveling around town, you too may have noticed Salt Lake City’s plethora of apricots. We recently posted SLC Green’s request for volunteers to help harvest city trees, and it is prime time to help (and get a portion of the harvest in the process), as the short season is in full swing! If you’ve been lucky enough to get your hands on some apricots, you might be trying to figure out what to do with all of them. Well, if I may be so bold as to suggest that you make some jam, you’ll find my favorite recipe below. This is a great example of how a simple recipe can be one of the best ways to showcase the flavor of fruit. To keep the flavor as true as possible, I don’t can this jam, but simply refrigerate it after it has finished cooking down; I find this lessens “over-cooked” flavors and keeps the jam nice and bright. There is certainly enough sugar in the recipe, however, for you to preserve the jam for long-term storage if you’d prefer. Please research home-canning methods carefully to ensure you properly and safely preserve your food.
APRICOT JAM (adapted from David Tanis’ book, “The Heart of the Artichoke”)
- Combine the apricots and sugar in a medium pot or saucepan that is wider than it is deep. Place the pot over medium heat, and add the water (this will help to get the mixture going without burning the apricots or sugar). Stir the mixture occasionally and let it come to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low so that it is at a brisk simmer (there should be little, rapid bubbles). Your jam will start to foam a bit; skim off the foam with a spoon, and set it aside (it isn’t very pretty, but it is delicious! I usually add it to yogurt or spoon it on toast for a snack while the jam continues to cook). The foaming will slow down after a few minutes and your jam will start smelling really, really good.
- Let it continue to cook for 30 minutes, or until the fruit begins to fall apart and becomes more jewel-like, glossy, and less opaque (your jam will develop a “cooked” flavor if you take it too far beyond this point). Turn off the heat, and mush the fruit a couple of times with a potato masher or wooden spoon (I do this very briefly since I like big pieces of fruit in my jam, but you can do this more if you like a smoother jam).
- Let the jam cool completely, and stir it to see if it is at a consistency that you like. If it is too thin, put it back on medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes to thicken (you can also leave the jam uncovered overnight and it will lose some liquid). Divide the mixture among jars or containers to place in the fridge. Use it however you would use your favorite jam!
- Apricot-Rosemary Jam: Add 1-2 sprigs of rosemary to the jam immediately after you turn off the heat in Step 2. Let steep for a few minutes, then remove. If you want added color and flavor, add a pinch of finely chopped rosemary (you should REALLY like rosemary if you do this, as the chopped pieces will continue to steep in the jam as it cools).
- Apricot-Orange Blossom Jam: Add ½ teaspoon of orange blossom water immediately after you turn off the heat in Step 2. Stir to distribute flavor evenly.
- Apricot-Lavender Jam: Add a pinch of dried lavender blossoms immediately after you turn off the heat in Step 2. Stir to distribute evenly. The lavender will continue to steep as the jam cools.
- Need a hint on a great way to use your jam? Make a sandwich with jam, arugula, and thin slices of a sharp, aged cheese (such as Parmesan or Pecorino Romano).
Do you have a fruit tree and need help with your harvest? Register your tree on the SLCgreen Fruit Share inventory. A portion of each harvest is distributed by partner organizations to community members who lack access to healthy food and/or fresh produce.
Rachel Sanders is the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund coordinator for the Sustainability Resource Center.