The downy skin of an apricot houses a soft, delicate, sweet flesh that is a treat eaten fresh or incorporated into cooked and baked goods. Like its peach, nectarine and plum cousins, apricots are considered stone fruits because of the large seeds they contain. When shopping, look for bright orange-yellow skin with a slightly pinkish tinge, firm flesh and no blemishes. Apricots continue to ripen at room temperature, and can be refrigerated for several days.
The Basic Approach
Your first experience with apricots should be to taste one on its own with no accompaniments. Wash the fruit under cold water to remove any impurities that may be lurking among its fine hairs and in the tiny pores of the skin. Pat the skin dry and either bite right into it, or use a sharp knife to slice it in half along the seam. Use a spoon to gently pry out the stone and eat it. For a fresh, light dessert, spoon freshly whipped cream over a bowl of sliced apricots, or add a splash of light or heavy cream for that classic peaches and cream taste. Add chopped fresh apricots to plain yogurt, and to cold or hot cereal.
Cooking With Apricots
Dress up boneless chicken breasts with a sauce made from fresh apricots, apricot preserves, tarragon, and white wine or fruit juice. Make a fresh marinade for vegetables, chicken, fish or tofu with pureed fresh apricots, apple, lime juice, orange juice, honey, mint, garlic, balsamic vinegar, tamari soy sauce and basil. Add a different touch to your next barbecue by grilling apricots alongside meats, fish or vegetables. Thread whole or halved apricots on skewers, brush them with honey and grill them until they are semi-soft.
Baking With Apricots
Fresh apricots can act as a stand-in for other fruits in many baked goods. Try an upside-down cake with apricots instead of the customary pineapple and maraschino cherries. Using a round cake pan, pour in some melted butter and arrange a single layer of sliced apricots on top. Sprinkle the apricots with brown sugar before pouring on a yellow cake batter. Swap out peaches for apricots in a double-crust pie, or in a cobbler or crisp. You can also combine apricots with other stone fruit, such as peaches and plums, in fruit compotes or in fruit salads.
An Abundance of Apricots
If you have a surplus of fresh apricots, freeze the whole or halved fruits in a syrup made from 1 cup of sugar dissolved in 4 cups of lukewarm water. Chill the syrup before pouring it over the fruit in containers, using about 1/2 cup of the syrup per pint, seal, label and freeze for 8 to 12 months. Thawed apricots in syrup can be used for desserts, sauces or in baking. Apricots also make a flavorful jam when combined with sugar and liquid or powdered pectin.
Rachel Lovejoy has been writing professionally since 1990 and currently writes a weekly column entitled "From the Urban Wilderness" for the Journal Tribune in Biddeford, Maine, as well as short novellas for Amazon Kindle. Lovejoy graduated from the University of Southern Maine in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.