By September things were getting dire. Apples were so far past their best they just weren’t a pleasure to eat anymore.
There are only so many oranges you can consume, and by the end of that month their shiny skins were giving way to a dull malleability.
Kiwifruit? Done. Supermarket pineapples flown from other parts of the world were beginning to look attractive, until the first slice revealed unripe blandness.
For most of October and November bananas were the only fresh fruit still on the menu. We supplemented these with frozen berries in smoothies and preserved fruit in jars on breakfast cereal.
Supplying ‘fruit break’ at school got very difficult for a while. The oasis of creativity dried up some time in November.
Then quietly, in early December, the first berries appeared. They weren’t grown by us, and were very expensive, but local enough to warrant a small handful in lunchboxes.
Later in December it was if someone had opened a small but significant gate in the fruit supply chain. The children would sneak out first thing in the morning to collect enough berries for breakfast plates, and could still stop off in the strawberry patch on the way home for a forage.
Christmas came and went with a satisfactory amount of homegrown raspberries, boysenberries, currants and the very first blueberry.
And now it is January. And it’s as if the gate opened last month, has created enough light of day for a tsunami of fruit to pour through it. Wild plums, apricots, gooseberries, blackcurrants, more raspberries than is decent, and enough blueberries to satisfy the child who likes to make designs on the breakfast table.
I can see what’s coming on the horizon as well… the first nectarines, peaches and cultivated plums, followed by apples, blackberries and nashis and pears and figs and quinces and pomegranates until we’re drowning in the fruit bowl of choice.
We’ll lie in the puddles lazily dropping table grapes in our mouths, consuming our body weight in feijoas and idly rolling over for the first mandarin from the tree.
And then, very slowly, and without noticing at first, the tide will turn and begin to withdraw…..
Preserved Apricots with Honey, Lemon and Ginger.
The apricot season is relatively short, and many of the apricot varieties grown on old trees in New Zealand are of the preserving sort.
We collect our apricots from an abandoned orchard own by a local friend Narissa and her family. They are always delicious and the best old varieties for preserving, the beautiful old orchard with its large trees is one of our favourite summer food collecting places.
One of my favourite preserving cookbooks is an Amercian one: ‘Canning for a New Generation’ by Liana Krissoff. (‘Canning’ is such a funny word, why not ‘jarring’)? Anyway, she seems to suggest that apricots are really not that highly rated in the USA. This is held to bear by the lack of apricot preserving history shown by any of our American Wwoofers.
Despite this, she offers a delicious preserved apricot recipe. We’ve adapted her original recipe to make more syrup as we’ve found it’s not enough otherwise, but I suspect this depends on the size of your apricots. If you have leftover it’s perfect added to vodka and soda. Win win!
Makes about 3 litre jars but this can vary. For best results use proper preserving jars such as Agee or Fowlers.
1.8 kilos of small, ripe but still firm apricots. (If they are too ripe they will float to the top of the preserving jars, and not look nearly as pretty!)
¾ cup of fresh strained lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon (make sure you scrub it if its store bought)
1 cup of sugar
¾ cup mild honey
6 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
6 cups of water
Sterilize the preserving jars.
Half and pit apricots, sprinkle with some of the lemon juice and set aside.
In a large pot combine the remaining lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, honey and water. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Pack the apricot halves in hot jars leaving about an inch headspace at the top, and divide the ginger amongst the jars. Ladle in the boiling syrup. Use a chopstick to remove air bubbles. Use a damp towel to wipe around the rims of the jars and put the lids on them.
Put them in the preserving pot of hot water and make sure the water covers the jars by an inch. Bring to the boil and boil for 15 minutes. Remove carefully and put on a towel. Don’t disturb them for 12 hours. Check the lids have sealed and any that haven’t put straight in the fridge.
Delicious all year for desserts but particularly tasty in the dark, fruitless days of spring!