It was always forebodingly deciduous in mid-winter — dark and bare! It would suddenly burst into blossom in spring, then get dressed overnight in lush foliage, that a few weeks later shaded and protected a mass of marble-sized, furry fruit sitting on knobbly spurs. In the following weeks, before harvest time in December and onwards, the old folk would start protecting the yellowing, downy fruit from fruit flies, but primarily against marauding neighbourhood birds — and children.
Gangs of kids playing in the streets would plan their midnight feasts around apricot harvest time, and would descend on the fruit-laden trees on moonlit summer nights, pillowcases in hand. The result was always a bad case of apricot-induced indigestion the following day!
It’s tough to describe the taste of a sun-ripened apricot. Sweet but tart, maybe musky and peachy, or even grassy and horsey (in the Anglo-Boer War many a warhorse was named ‘Appelkoos’). Jarod Kintz once said, ‘apricots are like cute, furry pets you can eat – legally’.
It is equally difficult to describe the colour of a ripe apricot, which has inspired so many paint and material swatches. Suffice it to say that a perfectly grown and ripe apricot sports a warm colour that deserves to be looked at by the whole world every day, and a taste that will keep everyone happy! What more could you ask of a home-grown fruit?
Have you ever eaten a huge bowl filled with creamy, fruity and foamy pudding dished up by motherly ladies at church bazaars, and wondered how they make it? This is what to do with some of your apricot harvest:
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups boiling water
- 12 to 20 ripe apricots
- 2 dessert spoons gelatine
- ½ cup boiling water
- 2 egg whites
- 1 cup fresh cream
- Dissolve the sugar in 2 cups of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes.
- Halve and de-pip the apricots, add to the water and simmer until soft.
- Use a wooden spoon to push the apricots through a sieve. Measure out 2 cups of the pulp.
- Mix the pulp with the gelatine, moisten with 2 dessert spoons of cold water and dissolve in ½ cup of boiling water. Leave to cool.
- Whip the cream to soft peaks; in a different bowl, whisk the whites until stiff. As soon as the fruit mixture starts setting, stir with a fork, add the whipped cream, and gently fold in the egg whites.
- Dish into pretty glasses and refrigerate to set.
- Decorate with halved apricots.
Homemade apricot jam used to be the saving grace of many families, as it was made and sold for extra income. If you have lots of fruit, cook some yourself.
- Wash the apricots, break them in half and remove the pips. You can peel them thinly if you’d like your jam to be lighter.
- Use equal weights of fruit and sugar and pack them into layers in a large pot. Allow to stand for a few hours.
- Heat very slowly and stir until all the sugar has dissolved, then boil for 30 minutes, stirring continuously until the jam has thickened and is a bright colour.
- Bottle in sterilised jars while still warm.