For a long time I found myself disappointed with the quality of apricots I found at the greenmarkets. I remember desserts of bright orange with vibrant flavor and sweetness. Yet with every (pretty expensive) apricot I bite into, I feel underwhelmed. It was only after I did some research online that I learned those bland apricots I tasted are perfectly right. Apricots are amazing in the way that they are the only fruit that truly comes alive after being cooked. You’ll never get the same satisfaction from a raw apricot as you would a juicy peach but cook them up in a bread pudding or even can them and you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts.
I read somewhere that apricots are one of the only fruits that improve in flavor through cooking. I never want to believe such a thing could be true. All winter I indulge on dried apricots and apricot preserves, savoring each bite. When apricot season finally rolls around, after almost months of strawberries and a brief flirtation with cherries, I gladly shell out the $4 a pound for the petite fruit, rushing home like a child to enjoy my treasure.
The thing about apricots is they’re so small. Where as one peach may keep me satisfied, I need 3-4 apricots to do the same. I break open the first fruit, discard the pit and bite. Hmm, a little squishy–I must have picked an over ripe one. The next, firm but flavorless, another dud. After 3 or 4 apricots, I start to realize that cooking fact might have some weight to it. I’ve never enjoyed apricots fresh from the tree, but even the best looking specimens brought home from the greenmarkets never seem to achieve the flavor I expect compared to the jams, pies and crisps.
I have a tendency to hoard food. There’s no basis for this habit. I’ve always been well fed (too well fed as my scale sometimes notes) and never gone without, but for some reason I have this anxiety that if I eat it all, I can’t get it again. Maybe it happened when I started taking this locavore thing so seriously. The realization that strawberries can’t grow year round in the northeast. I need to get my fill while they’re in season, preserve their flavors as best I can and hunker down for a round 9 months without seeing them again. By the time strawberry season finishes, I’ve stuff myself so full I can’t imagine having even the smallest of berries. That lasts for about a month or so, then the cravings return with a vengeance. Preserving helps, knowing that I have fresh strawberry jam to last the winter puts me slightly at ease. Until it doesn’t. I only have 6 jars to survive the winter (let’s forget about the other few dozen types of jam I also have stored up in my pantry). I panick. Will they really last? So I ration myself, allowing myself only a small spoonful of the sweet chunky jam every few weeks, determined to make my inventory last. Fast forward 9 months later, as strawberries start to surface at the greenmarkets and I find myself still left with 4 jars. I’ve rationed too well and find myself pushing jars of jam on everyone I know (thanks for holding the subway door for me; here, have some homemade jam) so I can start fresh in the new season.
First I have to apologize for the lack of step by step photos of this recipe. I had no idea it would turn out as good as it did and I was pretty jaded going into the recipe preparation. The recipe was from of my long owned cookbooks, Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Two. I’ve wanted get rid of this book on a number of occasions, but really, how often do you find recipes for a slow cooker that serves two rather than a family of twelve? The last time I used this book was at least 3-4 years ago. It was a delicious looking recipe for pork tenderloin with a rhubarb chutney. I prepared the ingredients accordingly, set my crockpot and left for work. When I returned 8 hours or so later, wonderful aromas drew me down the hall to my apartment door. I was hit with the beautiful scent of rhubarb as I turned the key. My mouth watered and I couldn’t get to the kitchen fast enough. When I opened the pot, however, I was welcomed not by a tasty tender piece of pork but a dark, salvageable charred mess. How the char and burnt scent didn’t fill my apartment is still a mystery to me, but that dish still remains my most disappointing cooking experience ever. To walk into the illusion of a perfect meal, only to be slapped in the face by it’s ruins. We had pizza that night and I haven’t touched the book since.