Poaching in syrup lends stone fruits succulence

Watching my kids’ jubilation over cherries in our yard, I can’t help but feel a pang for the apricot tree that passed on before they were born.

The tree was gnarled and bent but every few years produced a riot of pink flowers and the most delicious fruit I’d ever tasted. Spindly to start with, it died back to just one main branch before my mother-in-law, whose property surrounded the tree, declared it was time to take it out. Removing it would benefit the garden beds with more sun and summer vegetables.

Apricots have never been the same for me. Tracking down a local source has been tricky, and the grocery-store fruits from California are tart and mealy, hardly the succulent flesh that dripped juice as sweet as honey. I feel like a curmudgeon for telling my younger son that we shouldn’t buy apricots at the store, even as they beckon with skins of namesake hue.

Maybe I’ll have to break down and buy some with the intent to poach them in syrup, a technique that transforms underripe and generally unsatisfactory fruit into a sweet, luscious treat. This technique also works with those stubbornly hard grocery-store peaches and plums that, if left on the kitchen counter, often disintegrate into mush.

They may not be as satisfying as stone fruits eaten out of hand, oozing nectar. But bathed in simple syrup, poached fruits are delicious spooned onto yogurt and ice cream.     

Tribune News Service photo

Poached Apricots

4 ripe apricots

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 vanilla bean

Rinse the apricots. Halve each along its cleft line. Twist open. Lift out and discard pits.

In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, lemon juice and 2 cups water. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise; scrape out seeds with back of a knife blade. Drop in seeds and pod. Bring to a boil; boil for 1 minute.

Slide in apricots; lower heat so syrup barely shudders around fruit. Cover and cook, turning apricots once, until they are tender and still hold their shape, a total of 5 to 10 minutes, depending on size and ripeness of fruit. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out apricots (leave any skins in water) and let fruit cool.

Turn up heat under saucepan, and reduce contents to a thick syrup, for about 5 minutes. Strain into a glass measuring cup. Let cool for a few minutes.

Pour syrup over apricots. Cover and chill.

Enjoy apricots, along with syrup, over yogurt, under whipped cream, alongside a slice of pound cake or solo. All good.

Makes 4 servings.

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