Saturday, June 23, 2012

Apricots and Mom and Dad

The last several days have been a blur as I have picked apricots off overburdened trees at the house and made jam, pies and cobbler from the apricots. While the picking and cooking have been a lot of work, the experience has reminded me a lot of my Mom and Dad.

My dad didn't like gardening, but loved cultivating fruit trees. He got great joy in sharing his harvest with his neighbors and friends. If he didn't have enough from his yard, he would go over to Fresno State and pick whatever he needed to augment his harvest.  Mom was equally generous with supplying everyone she knew with a pie, whether it be apricot, peach, or rhubarb.   Every year, they would share the tedious task of splitting hundreds upon hundreds of apricots onto grape trays and drying them in their backyard. This process took weeks, and lots of patience, but the result was being handed a bag of the best dried apricots you ever tasted. So, you see, I have apricots in my blood.

So the first apricot pies that came out of the oven are dedicated to my parents. I thank them for instilling the love of fruit and baking in me. At last count, there were 13 15 19 pies, 31 39 jars of jam and  2 3 cobblers. I have become very popular with my friends, family and neighbors, and I'm delighted to share with them.

The photo above shows how productive my trees were this year. Below is a picture of the apricot filling ready to go into the crust. The recipe I'm using here was my mom's favorite apricot pie recipe. It's quite different because the thickening agent is tapioca, rather than flour or cornstarch.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

8-10 cups halved apricots (about 22-24)
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 Tbsp. water
1  Tbsp. amaretto or orange liquer
Mix liquids and sprinkle over apricots. Stir and let stand.

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar (+ 1/2 cup more sugar is fruit isn't real ripe or sweet)
3 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. minute tapioca
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
In a bowl, stir sugars and tapioca together until thoroughly mixed. This is very important as not to have unpleasant lumps of tapioca. Add sugar/tapioca mixture to apricots, 1/2 cupful at a time, making sure you mix thoroughly after each addition. Let stand 15 minutes.

Assemble pie crust, fruit, and top crust. Brush top with milk or egg white and sprinkle with sugar and slivered almonds, Reduce temperature to 450 degrees and bake 10 minutes.Then set oven to 375 degrees and bake for 35 more minutes. Cool at least 6 hours.
Makes one large pie. Serves 8-10.