Sunday, March 24, 2013

Apricot Liqueur From Clara Caldwell

Apricot harvest at Gene Bays' orchard near Patterson, California, last summer.  ©Photo by Robin Chapman

What do you do with all your extra dried apricots, when you've tired of using them for healthy, tasty snacks? There is an alternative that several members of my family enjoy. And it comes from a recipe given to our mother by Mrs. Clara Caldwell, the woman who lived up the street from us a long time ago. Mrs. Caldwell passed away many years ago: but she lives on in this lively recipe.

You'll learn more about the Colonel and Mrs. Caldwell in the recipe chapter of my book, California Apricots: the Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley. Meanwhile: 
Here are the directions for making Mrs. Caldwell's Apricot Liqueur. If you get it started now, you'll be able to tip your decanter in a salute to us, shortly after our publication date, which is now set by the History Press for April 16, 2013.

Clara Caldwell’s Apricot Liqueur

The Colonel and Mrs. Caldwell were a retired military couple. This recipe may explain why her parties were always so popular.

1½ pounds dried apricots
1½ pounds rock sugar candy
½ gallon of vodka

 Place the apricots and the rock sugar in a clean, wide-mouthed jar and pour the vodka over them. Put a lid on the jar and secure it tightly. Leave in a cool, dark place for 60 days. (You might want to put the date on the outside of the jar so you can keep track.) When the time is up, drain the liqueur off and place it in several small decanters. If the rock candy has strings, remove them now.

Some like to leave the mixture as it is, pouring it out from the original jar as needed, and returning the rest to the dark. The flavor gets stronger the longer you leave it steeping in the vodka. (Gin is an alternative to vodka in this recipe: you can try it both ways and see which you like the best.) 

When you have consumed all the liquid (or transferred it to a decanter) you can use the infused dried apricots as a topping on ice cream, in a pudding, or added to a fruitcake. Or, you can melt cooking chocolate in a saucepan and dip each apricot half into the chocolate and place the halves on to waxed paper to cool. Store in the refrigerator, and bring them out for special guests. Apricots and chocolate: it is hard to beat a confectionary combination like that.

A short time after I wrote those words for my book, my neighbor gave me a small gift for my birthday. It was a box of chocolate-covered dried apricots she had found at C.J. Olson's Cherries on El Camino Real, in Sunnyvale. Olson's has a web site, so if you would like to order these instead of making them yourself, just Google the Olson's fruit stand. But, I must say, they lack a little without the infused vodka! Gives 'em an extra punch.

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