Two of late spring’s fruits are just now appearing.
Both apricots and Bing cherries have been at our farmers’ markets since the first week of May.
Typically, apricots have the shortest season of just about any other fruit. Blink, and they’re gone, or nearly so. This year they are a bit early, which could mean the season will last a tad longer, into mid or even late June.
But don’t wait too long. If you want to make apricot chutney, shrub or preserves, you should do so sooner rather than later. Look for the best apricots at farmers’ markets, farm stands and Imwalle Gardens (685 West 3rd St., Santa Rosa); those that you find in most supermarkets have typically been picked green and never develop the full flavor of fruit that is picked when ripe.
Cherries last a bit longer than apricots. California Bings are the first to appear, but soon Queen Annes, a finer cherry to my palate, will follow and last through July in a good year, which it seems to be. A few other lesser varieties are occasionally available, though briefly. Cherries in Oregon and Washington state ripen later than California cherries, so the ones we’re seeing now are local, at least to some degree.
Apricots do well when they are preserved, but cherries … well, not so much. You have to be careful, or you’ll end up with something that resembles children’s liquid penicillin.
This is especially true when fresh cherries are combined with alcohol; more often than not, the taste is medicinal.
The best thing to do with cherries? Eat ’em neat. Nothing is better, though cherry salsa and cherry relish are quite delicious, too.
For recipes from these delicate fruits from the Seasonal Pantry archives, click here.
Shrubs have their roots in the American frontier and England. Because it is vinegar based, it preserves the fruit, giving it a longer life than the fresh fruit has.
In recent years, shrubs have become extremely popular and, as with most newly trendy things, is rather expensive.
It is very easy to make shrubs at home; all you really need is fresh fruit and vinegar; seasonings and other ingredients are optional.
Apricot Cardamom Shrub
Makes about 1 quart
8 to 10 cups sliced ripe apricots, from about 4 pounds
4 or 5 cardamom pods, crushed open
1 tablespoon white peppercorns, optional
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, optional
4 cups organic apple cider vinegar, plus more as needed
Put the apricots into a large glass jar (2 quarts minimum) or crock, add the cardamom and, if using, the peppercorns and stir, crushing the fruit a bit as you do. Fill the jar or crock with vinegar and let sit in the refrigerator or a cool, dark cupboard for at least 3 days and as long as two weeks. Stir it now and then as it rests.
Line a large strainer or colander with cheesecloth, set it over a deep bowl or crock and pour the mixture into it. Let it drain, stirring it now and then, for 30 to 60 minutes, until no more liquid drains from the fruit.
Pour the shrub into clean glass bottles, add a nonmetal closure — a pour spout is ideal — and refrigerate. Use the solids to make conserve or discard them.