My eyes lit up with excitement as Ben came in the door carrying a bulging brown paper bag in his arms. He had just been chatting to our neighbour on the high side of our house, the ones that have the apricot tree that glistens with those golden, fuzzy skinned fruits every summer.
I take great joy in checking on them every time we come back from our daily walk down to the beach, even very sneakily plucking a couple from the branches for a post-walk snack!
For most of the year this house sits quiet, as is the case for the majority of the homes in our area. Come summer when the sun shines bright and the beach beckons with those dancing diamonds on the waters surface, these very same houses fill with holiday makers and the town transforms into a hive of activity.
The carnival arrives with its bright lights and big beats; cafes are inundated with customers all wanting their daily fix of caffeine and the lines at the multiple ice cream shops snake out the doors. Caravans and tents line the foreshore and any available patch of sand is very quickly snapped up by families, groups of friends and the very rare sighting of a local!
But I am getting off track....back to the bulging brown paper bag.
As I opened it up there they were. Plump little apricots, blushing up at me. They were in need of either being eaten or cooked with within the next day or so. So out came the large stainless steel pot followed by the chopping board and knife. I positioned myself at the kitchen bench and begun slicing, pitting, chopping and dicing. Dropping each ingredient in as I went. Apricots, onions, ginger, dried fruits and spices.
With a click and a whoosh on went the stove and out came my trusty wooden spoon, stirring the brown sugar until it disappeared into the gloopy mess. Left to work its magic, slowly bubbling away, I set about making poached apricots infused with cardamom which would later be folded through home made ice cream (the no-churn variety. My favourite!)
Varying sized jars were pulled from the back of the pantry, some with their labels still attached, the ones that are too difficult to remove. Lids were matched up with their companions and soaked in hot water before being dried out in the oven. Once the chutney has reached that thick, pulpy stage its time to decant from the large pot into the piping hot jars. One by one each is filled right to the top; lids tightly replaced and as I ever so carefully try not to scald myself each one is turned up side down and allowed to stand like tall soldiers so as to create a vacuum seal. Turned right side up after about 20 minutes and wiped down with a hot cloth, they are stored on top of the fridge with the other colourful concoctions of seasonal condiments awaiting their turn in the spotlight. Be it smeared on thickly sliced toast, dolloped on freshly baked, fluffy scones or simply served with a luscious roast vegetable tart.
Makes approx. 8 cups
1.5kg apricots, stones removed and roughly chopped
1 large brown onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 tablespoons grated ginger
500ml apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup medjool dates, chopped
2 teaspoons mustard seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, ground
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
280g brown sugar
zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon salt
pre-heat your oven to 100c. Fill your sink with hot water and place your jars along with their lids into the water. give them a whoosh around and then place them onto a baking tray, ideally upside down so any remaining water can drain out, and pop them into the oven until they have dried. This should take about 20 minutes.
Place all of the ingredients in a large heavy based pot. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a steady simmer, stirring every now and then to prevent it from catching on the bottom of the pan. continue to cook for about 45-50 minutes or until its turned into a thick pulpy concoction.
Remove your jars from the oven and then turn right side up, being extremely careful so as not to scald yourself, use a jug to scoop some of the chutney from the pot and then pour into the jars. It will spurt up, so be careful. Once they have all been filled to the top, match the lids with their companions and then using a thick cloth in one hand tightly screw the lids on. Place upside down and leave for about 20 minutes. Then turn right side up, wipe the jars down with a lovely hot cloth and allow them to cool completely before storing in the pantry or in a cool dark spot.
Once opened, store in the fridge.