In South Australia stone fruits are now in season and this morning one of my neighbours offered me a bucketful of surplus apricots. I sorted the fruit as soon as it reached my kitchen. Fresh stone fruit does not have a long shelf life and I suspect this is why it is expensive even when in season. Taking 3 trays out of the cupboard, I carefully emptied the bucket of apricots into them. I then picked up and examined each piece of fruit. With practice, this process can be done very quickly.
A couple of damaged, over-ripe fruit went straight into the compost bin. The ripe, slightly bruised apricots were put aside for immediate preserving. The not yet ripe fruit will ripen over the next few days, and the ones that said “eat me right now” were delicious.
I cleaned the fruit put aside for immediate preserving in fresh water, carefully cut out and discarded any part of the fruit that was discoloured, broken or over-ripe and removed the stones. I covered the pan and gently simmered the fruit on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Adding half a cup of water before cooking prevents the fruit from sticking to the pan.
Once cooked, the stewed fruit can be transferred to clean glass jars and left to cool before putting the lids on. To hasten the cooling process, I usually immerse the jars about half way in cold water and in very hot weather I add ice cubes to the water.
When the jars are cool to touch, they can be transferred to the fridge or freezer. If I know the content will be eaten within a couple of days, I leave them in the fridge. If not, I store the jars upright in the freezer. Leaving at least a 2 cm gap at the top of the jars allows the content to expend during the freezing process.
Earlier this week, I also gleaned 5 kilos of nectarines from another neighbour’s tree. Noting several branches laden with ripe fruit overhanging a fence and a large amount of fallen fruit on the footpath, I asked the resident of the house if he minded me picking the fruit. He promptly supplied collection bags and encouraged me to return with a step-ladder so as to reach the higher branches. Farmers’ markets are another good place to find ripe seasonal produce, priced to sell quickly.
Stewing and freezing is a quick and easy way to preserve fruit. If you have not already done so why not give it a go? You can create a healthier preserve by leaving out the sugar, avoid packaging and reduce food waste in your region.