Thursday, April 26, 2012

Apricot's for All Seasons

I've had apricots on the brain lately, haven't I? Since the recent rescue of the historic J. Gilbert Smith/Los Altos Civic Center apricot orchard in Los Altos, California, I've been pondering: what is the seductive draw of this lovely, scented, peachy colored fruit? And why am I so darned fond of it?

Some of it, I think, is its association with the sunny, dry, California summer days I spent in the open spaces of the San Francisco peninsula of my youth. The rest, I believe, speaks to the richness of the fruit's flavor and the relative shortness of its season. This warm-from-the-sun, sweet, scented fruit is ripe for just a few weeks each summer. And then it is gone.

Picking 'cots in the Santa Clara Valley, 1946. Photo courtesy of History San Jose.

We coped with this sad fact of nature by home preservation: our mothers canned the 'cots and made jam. Our fathers, with our help, cut the 'cots and dried them on big, flat, redwood trays in the backyard. Dried 'cots have their own special quality:  they gave us a chewy treat to help us survive the winter. 

A teenager cutting 'cots in the Santa Clara Valley. Courtesy of History San Jose.

With apricot jam on our morning toast, and canned 'cots as a desert delicacy, we persevered for the eleven months of the year that we moped along until lovely July rolled around and there were, once again, ripe apricots on our trees. The rarer the treasure, the more desirable it is.

Here is my favorite cookie recipe from long ago. It will never be a substitute for tree-ripe apricots--but it is a mighty fine filler between seasons. I'm afraid, unless you planned ahead last summer, you'll have to make it with store-bought jam. But that's okay. (See if you can find some jam from California 'cots. They're the best, of course).

Apricot Yummies

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup butter

1 egg
2 cups of flour
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

apricot jam

Mix the butter and sugar together. Add the egg. Gradually mix in the flour, using slow speed on your mixer. Finally, put in the almond and vanilla. Drop the dough onto a cookie sheet in bite-size plops, making an indentation in the center of each with a spoon. Fill the hole with a teaspoon of apricot jam. Bake ten minutes in a 325°F  oven. Cool before eating. (That jam can get hot!)

I had been looking all over for this recipe, since I left home umpteen years ago. I just found it today in my mother's recipe file up in one of our kitchen cupboards. Not being much of a cook, I didn't think to look in this highly logical location until now!

Let me know how the cookies come out! I might bake some of my own today.

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