Each and every year, when velvet apricots find their way to our local markets, I fall back in love with their simple, sensual beauty. Red velvets emerge first, and then their black velvet kin, at least in my area.
I am a stone fruit fanatic, but truth be told, I rarely enjoy eating fresh apricots. Too often they are mealy, mushy, and/or flavorless. But dried, stewed, or preserved? Yes. Now we're talking.
A few years back, in the thick of my jam-inventing heyday, I happened on a combination of velvet apricots, pluots (a plum-apricot hybrid), sugar, cognac, and a touch of black pepper. It is both basic and decadent, its taste as divine as its jewel-tone hue.
This year's red velvet apricot crop has beaten plums and pluots to market shelves, and so I had to tinker a bit with my recipe, to optimize for the basket of apricots I'd recently brought home. I suspected that a just-ripe nectarine would do the trick, and it did. I love being forced to come up with alternative ingredients- necessity breeding creativity, and all that.
It's been a while since I had (made) a few hours to make a batch of jam at my own pace. To take time to chop and taste and photograph and stir. The serenity that results from crafting something delicious and pretty, from start to finish, is something that's always drawn me to my kitchen.
This past Friday, as I ladled hot jam into sterile glass jars, screwed on lids and bands, and set the sealed parcels into their boiling bath, I thought about how much I thrive on focused creation. Whether it's working in my garden, writing an essay, or turning a few pounds of fruit into preserves that we'll enjoy throughout the next year, I need to regularly remind myself, especially during harried times like the end of school, that making time for productive, inventive pursuits is never time wasted.
Hope all of my domestic friends are enjoying this long weekend, and to those around the globe, cheers!