There are some foods that when eating them bring me back to a certain season. Now I have to say that in Seattle we have not been lacking for sunshine this winter. I have nothing to complain about in that regard. Well, except for the fact that we didn’t have a ski season. And being a native northwestener if I go too many days without a nice air-clearing rain shower or two, I start getting very grouchy! And this summer we will have drought. But other than that nothing to complain about and now back to the subject….
Even with this much sun, though, over the last week or so I’ve been enjoying foods that transport me to another, warmer, bright and sunny time – either a warm spring day or a late summer day when stone fruits are at their peak.
Last year I had a brunch in late summer. I made a really great white sangria filled with all types of stone fruits. After the brunch I found myself with a plethora of apricots – they were so good I just hadn’t been able to stop loading up on them even though I only needed a few for the Sangria. So I set a few aside to eat fresh and promptly made the rest of them into apricot jam.
I make berry jams every year but it’s been quite some time since I made apricot jam. So using it this winter has been a real treat! First, the color just screams summer – every time I open a bright yellow-orange jar of ooey-gooey-ness I can almost feel the sun on my skin. And then the taste – oh my! The apricots I used were really at their peak flavor and that just fills me with an explosion of summer memories when I bite into the sweet jam spread on a scone or a slice of baguette. My first impression is always of my favorite summer Farmer’s Market in the U-District. I didn’t realize my taste buds had such good memories and so much control over my psyche!
In addition to the apricot jam, I made my first-of-the-year lemon meringue pie over the weekend. I visited my parents and I know it’s one of their favorites. Normally, we save them for the Easter holiday but the day I made it, it seemed like spring and I had a pile of juicy lemons just waiting to become part of a happy food memory. So lemon meringue pie it was! I love the sweet-tart lemon custard and the light, golden-tipped nothing-ness of the meringue. An added bonus with this particular pie is that it was something my Mom really enjoyed. She is not well and many foods don’t taste good to her so I was very happy to find something that she still enjoys.
So as summer rolls around this year and local fruits are at their absolute best, think about preserving something so that next winter you have a little bit of summer waiting in the pantry for you. :-)
(This is a sample recipe. If using pectin, always follow the recipe specific to the pectin you are using. Or you can just simmer the fruit and sugar until the fruit is reduced to the desired consistency. I normally use pectin – it’s the way I learned from my mom and grandmothers!)
3 1/2 cups (about 2 1/2 pounds) apricots, pitted and finely chopped with skin left on
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
5 3/4 cup sugar
1 pack of pectin
Put fruit in large stockpot. Stir in sugar. Add 1/2 tsp butter to reduce foaming, if desired.
Over high heat bring mixture to full rolling boil stirring constantly. Quickly stir in pectin. Return to full boil and boil for 1 minute.
Scoop off any foam. Ladle jam into heated prepared jars. Wipe jar rims (make sure they are perfectly clean). Cover with lids and rings, screwing rings down firmly.
Let cool and then make sure jars are sealed. If one or two do not seal, keep refrigerated until ready to use.