This week has been a celebration of apricots here in southern Tasmania. Last weekend we were able to obtain from a large orchard near the township of Richmond, over 80 kilos of various varieties. I actually went searching for the famous Moor Parks, as I know they bottle really well, and make excellent jam and chutney. I’ve tried other varieties, but have found that the results were less than pleasing. One variety in particular goes to mush in the bottle, which is very annoying when you need them for a pie or tart.

However on the recommendation of the orchardist, a person of immense knowledge, I was persuaded to try other varieties. With so many on offer, the question was – which ones? The orchardist explained the characteristics of the fruit – how those with a fibrous flesh will not bottle well – others of firmer flesh will however. I still had a hankering for Moor Parks – it is almost like some of us here in Tasmania have a Moor Park syndrome I’m told. However, they will be increasingly hard to come by, as they are not popular with the larger vendors – they ripen from the inside out, so don’t look as attractive as some of the other varieties on the supermarket shelves. Therefore they are being phased out commercially.

As a compromise I took 60 kilos of my beloved Moor Parks and 20 kilos of Solarmate to experiment with. Actually, there were 90 kilos in all, as I also took some of the offending variety, the name of which escapes me now, but which was the one that bottled badly in my past experience. We decided to give them another chance (their colour is so beautiful) by preserving them at a slightly lower temperature for a little less time. The Moor Parks bottled well of course, and I was very impressed with the Solarmate I have to say. I bottled some in sugar free apple juice as an experiment, an option for diabetics, and they still kept their shape and texture.

The other variety has been bottled and the colour is good. I’m yet to test taste them as they’ve just come out of the preserver, and need to stand for 24 hours before I can take off the clips. I will be very interested to see the results. If you would like to preserve apricots, here is the method I use.  It is for apricot halves, but they can be bottles whole or pureed.  However, I find that the halves are by far the most versatile for future use.

While the processing can be carried out on a large boiler on top of the stove, it is far, far easier to purchase a preserving outfit (from large hardwares stores for instance).   Several models are available at varying costs. Any financial outlay is well and truly recouped once you start preserving.

• Halve the washed apricots and remove the stones

• Place rings on clean preserving jars

 • Choose and make the selected preserving syrup

• Layer the halves, skin side up, neatly and firmly in bottles

 • Pour the selected preserving liquid over the apricots** right to the brim

 • Place lids on jars and secure with clips, or if using screw top jars, screw lids on, then release half a turn

 • Place in preserving outfit

• Bring to 85°C, making sure that this takes at least an hour

• Hold at this temperature for ½ hour for jars containing up to 12 cups of product, an extra 30 minutes for larger

 • Remove from preserver and place on a wooden board. If using screw top jars, screw lid on tightly now.

 • Leave to stand for 24 hours.

• Remove clips (if used). Check that lids are concave.

• Store in a cool, dark place

**The preserving liquid can be water, fruit juice or sugar syrup. Sugar quantity in syrups can vary according to personal taste:

Light Syrup: one part sugar, four parts water

Medium Syrup: one part sugar to two parts water

Heavy Syrup: equal parts sugar and water.

I make this syrup up in a plastic jug. For a heavy syrup half fill the jug with sugar, add enough boiling water to dissolve the sugar, then fill the remainder of the jug with cold water. The syrup is then ready to use.

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