I think it’s safe to say that apricot season is my favorite season in far West Texas. If you take a look around, you’ll see apricot trees, dripping with orangish-yellow fruit ranging in size from half-dollar to penny-size, in yards, roadsides and even abandoned properties.
My friend Carla awakened the sleeping apricot monster this season when she sent a message asking if I’d like some apricots from one of their trees. I couldn’t type out, “YES PLEASE!!!” fast enough. I didn’t even know it was time to pick apricots yet. The fruit were about the size of half-dollars, and so sweet. I ate most of them with every trip to the kitchen.
While walking the dog, I’ve kept my eye on a few apricot trees at random empty houses. I’ve been watching for any sign of someone eagerly waiting for the precious fruit to ripen for the picking. And, I’ve watched that fruit fall to the ground, left to bugs and birds and other critters, completely ignored. My guess is that nobody wanted to bother with the littlest apricots I’ve seen around.
So, I decided just the other day to collect some of the fallen fruit to take home. It was a spur of the moment decision since I normally don’t look kindly on taking things that aren’t offered to me, but I also didn’t want those little jewels to be left to ruin.
I didn’t have a bag or anything to put the teeny, penny and nickle-sized fruit in, so I filled the bottom edge of my shirt, using it like an apron, and did my best to keep the dog from yanking hard and scattering my pilfered treasure. Most of them had little blemishes on the skin, and were still a little firm to the touch.
We made it home safely and I secured the dog, grabbed a container, and went back to pick up more fruit from the road, with two hands.
I’m so glad I went back for more, because shortly after, a brutal hail storm knocked nearly all of the fruit from the tree and left destruction in its path. I have a feeling there were lots of apricot cobblers and jams being made following the destructive hail a couple days ago. We had enough to enjoy fresh and cut up on top of our oatmeal for a few mornings, and in a cobbler that we wiped out in two days. I feel so lucky to have had them.
Fruit growing in the High Desert is a fascinating thing. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed several types of fruit that are plentiful in Far West Texas, seemingly without any type of care or attention to their growth. From apple orchards to apricot, pear and peach trees dotting yards and ranches, how these trees are able to thrive in our harsh weather is impressive.
Apricots are loaded with Vitamin A, which helps enhance vision and keeps our immune systems in check. They’re rich in fiber, help reduce bad cholesterol and chock-full of antioxidants. They’re just all-around good for you.
8 cups fresh apricots – peeled, pitted and crushed
¼ cup lemon juice
6 cups white pure cane sugar
5 (1 pint) canning jars with lids and rings
- Mix apricots and lemon juice in a large pot; add sugar. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook and stir until apricot mixture thickens, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary.
- Meanwhile, prepare jars, lids and rings by cleaning and sterilizing in dishwasher or boiling water bath. Leave lids in simmering water until ready to seal jars.
- Ladle hot jam into hot sterilized jars, leaving about ¼ inch of space on top. Run a knife or thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids and screw on rings.
- Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2-inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot and process for 15 minutes.
- Remove the jars from the stockpot and place onto a cloth-covered or wood surface, several inches apart, until cool. Once cool, press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all). Store in a cool, dark area.
Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche