The Beginning

The beginning..

This is the first of the summer fruit crop which will take over my kitchen bench until well into May. The first of our apricots, and these dark, glossy cherry plums from our neighbours. Yesterday I ate the first ripe peach for lunch, and now there are dozens of apricots ready. Our own yellow cherry plums are just ripening, and here is the very first ripe tomato..ta da!

This is a very dark photo taken at 9pm, but you can see the exotic stripes of the Tigerella tomato.

All this fruit, and no children to eat it! I have halved a bunch of apricots and popped them in the dryer. In the past I have always stewed excess apricots, but do you know what? No-one here likes stewed apricots. Stewing doesn't do that glorious apricot flavour any favours at all. But I keep stewing apricots because, well, that's what you do with an apricot glut.. isn't it? The Man's mum was a good country housewife, and she stewed a year's worth of apricots every summer, and froze them in the giant chest freezer in the laundry, and there was always, always stewed apricots and custard for dessert. I think that was where I got the idea stuck in my head that Apricots Must Be Stewed.

This year one of my little projects is to stop and rethink the Things I Always Do. Some of those things are good and useful, some of them are just mental ruts I have slipped into. There is a whole world of wonderful I may be missing due to convenient mental ruts. Stewed apricots is one of those mental ruts. So dried apricots it is this year. Advantages - no cooking, no added sugar. Plus, eating half-dried apricots, still moist and slightly drippy turns out to be one of the gastronomic highlights of my life. Also, the house is perfumed with the fragrance of sweetly dehydrating apricots, which is the very essence of apricot. Disadvantages - my dehydrator is on the small side. Every few hours I bunch up the half-dried apricots (only sampling one or two.. or three) to make room for more fresh ones. I am wondering how to rig up a temporary solar dryer. I am thinking cookie cooler trays with those wire cloches made for keeping flies off food, set up in the hottest part of the courtyard.. I will try that in the morning, unless anyone out there has any other good ideas?

For some reason, twelve years ago I thought it would be a good idea to plant an apricot tree between the fence and the clothesline...

So now I have apricots draped over the washing. When the apricots finish I will need to do some serious pruning.

In other news, the cat hates me. He does not like his Cone of Shame, nor his twice daily antibiotics for the giant ragged tear in his ear. He is now regretting that brief but glorious encounter with the obnoxiously rude cat down the street who definitely had it coming to him..

I hate you. I hate you all.. you will regret this..

Today I popped into the op-shop, and brought some things home with me, of course.

A pile of linen..

..and a selection of homewares for The Girl, who will soon be moving far, far away to study:(

But the best part of the day was when I went to visit the brand new baby of one of my very dear friends. His tiny squished-up face, his miniature hands, the solid fragility of his tiny body, the wonderful expressions that flitted across his sleeping face. I tried to bring him home with me, but was stopped at the door..

The best things in life are free, and the best free things in life are Other People's Babies. Adorable squishiness and absolutely no consequences:)

Are you having adventures in the kitchen at the beginning of the preserving season, or enjoying some priceless free moments that may or may not include brand new babies? Tell me about them. It is eerily quiet around here..


narf7 said…
Other people's squishy, delightful babies are the very best. A close second is a glut of apricots. I am not a fan of stewed or preserved fruit. I like it fresh or dried. Another great idea for fruit is to puree it and make fruit leather out of it. You can get Greek yoghurt and once you have spread the puree onto baking paper (or whatever you use to make fruit leather in your dehydrator) drizzle or drip or swirl it into the puree artistically. It tastes wonderful and makes the most attractive fruit leather around. I learned how to make that spider's web cake top pattern specifically so I could make my fruit leather look pretty. The good thing about fruit leather is that kids love it and you can use up more fruit making it as there are no gaps wasting space or electricity. I love the linen and the containers. Which thrift shop are you going to? I hope summer is treating you well and that you survive the next week or so of hot weather. I think every washing line should have an apricot like that one draped over it. I am going to plant one as soon as I can find one now :)
Jo said…
Fran, yes, I often make fruit leather out of our cherry plums, although it is annoying having to pick all the stones out of the puree. I love the idea of the greek yoghurt swirled through it..

Yesterday I was at City Mission in Frederick St, but City Mission at Prospect is the best, in my opinion, for housewares, linen and books, though a washout for clothes..
Unknown said…
I loved waking to read your post this morning. I love the apricot tree hanging over your clothes line. I also seem to have a knack for planting things and then realising at some point or another down the track that its not in a very good spot! Often find myself moving things around 2 or 3 times! All those apricots look divine though x
Tracy said…
I have long wanted an apricot tree - love the idea of drying instead of stewing. You are brilliant!

Have just had three days staying with my parents, who live 2 hours away. Geocaching is the current extended family excitement. Miss
Sunshine has a free account and therefore limited access to cache clues. Mum has a premium account so she had more. I just go along for the walk because it makes my step counter happy. The kids do the treasure hunting that includes minor bush bashing. Freebie fun for all.
gretchenjoanna said…
Your description of the drying apricots is making my mouth water, and I'm suddenly wondering why I planted plum trees instead of apricots?? Do you have a pear tree? Pears may not smell as heady in the process, but I think they are my favorite dried fruit. I can see how any dish could grow dull after years, but stewed apricots with custard is a treat I've never eaten - yet! and it sounds worth exploring when our apricot season rolls around.

I will be glad for you when your chicks come home again...though it is sad indeed to think of the one going far away soon. Blessings on your new year anyway! I know you will enjoy many.

Meg said…
Hi Jo,

I love apricots, fresh and dried! Not so much stewed but I do have a slice recipe (from Therese Steele's cookbook, "The Art of Nourishing", that uses dried apricots that have been simmered with water, spices and marmalade. This mixture gets spread onto a biscuit base and is then topped with a crumble. Like an apricot version of Raspberry and Coconut Slice. It's yum!

Jo said…
Clarissa, lovely to meet you:) It's funny, I have no idea what was going through my mind then. The apricot branches don't usually lie on the clothesline, it is the weight of the apricots that has them leaning so negligently right on the line. It means I can't use a good quarter of the line! Lucky apricots are deciduous or I would never get the washing dry in winter.

Tracy, geocaching is something I have never tried, but one of the children did it with school. I imagine the whole 'finding treasure' adds excitement to what is basically walking! I'm sure it would inspire Miss Posy, who definitely needs motivation to walk. Health and fitness is not enough!

Gretchen Joanna, I have two pear trees, and I love pears dried, stewed, raw, poached.. you can't go wrong. BUT stewed apricots? Well, they go a little sour or bitter.. they definitely don't stew well. I would recommend you go straight to drying. Plums too. Lovely, chewy dried plums. Yum.

And blessings on your new year and new garden as well:)

Meg, rehydrated apricots! That sounds better than stewed as well. I am sure that they would retain their flavour better that way. However, I think my apricots will be too precious to make into a slice. Maybe I could rehydrate some chosen few and serve them as the heroes of a meringue and cream dessert?? All the better to be maximally appreciated?
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

No worries. Oh yum! Dried Apricots. I usually bottle the apricots and have about a half years supply now. Picked the last of them off the trees yesterday, but late ones have so much sunshine they are only for fresh eating. The orchard is looking a bit empty of fruit now - the rosella's will get the almonds for sure before I notice they're ripe. The next big crop here is olives and then the citrus again and it all starts over again. The apples sort of make their own minds up when they're going to ripen and some are good now, and some will be good later. And around and around the seasons go.

I've always read that apricots should only be pruned in hot weather as it allows the cuts to heal properly. The wallaby does most of the pruning here. Dunno whether the heat makes any difference at the end of the day though?

Tigarella is a good choice and your tomatoes are way ahead of here. Plus the sprinkler broke today (actually two broke on one day), plastic rubbish. grumble, grumble, grumble! :-)!

Well done to the cat for its little adventure and you can keep the babies - they do make a lot of noise you have to admit! Silence makes your brain work, plus books can be noisy too!

Cheers. Chris
Jo said…
Chris, usually our cooler summer weather means the apricots ripen slowly, branch by branch over a few weeks. This year, they have all ripened within the week. It is extraordinary! Fruit that I thought was a bit hard this morning was soft and ready to pick this evening after our 34C day. I am pretty sure I will need to pick the rest of the fruit tomorrow or it will just drop (on the washing!!).

I was listening to our local garden talk-back radio with Peter Cundall this morning, and he always recommends pruning stone fruit when they have finished fruiting, not only because they heal quicker, but because they don't put on heaps of extra growth if you prune them now, whereas pruning in winter promotes lots of new growth in spring (not sure why?). So because I want to reduce the overall size of the tree, pruning soon will be the go..

I love silence. Space to think..
Anonymous said…
Save some fruit for me. I'll be back in a week. Was it apricots I say falling on your back roof?

I read Peter Cundall's advice re pruning in the local paper. We miss his pearls of wisdom on the mainland. Pruning is one of those mix of science and act and folk knowledge that I just can't remember all the vagaries.

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