The apricots came this year– sweet lanterns of spring.
We have four apricot trees. Two are too young to produce fruit and the other two are almost too old– the grandmothers. These elders live next store to our house, on an adjacent property we own.
My husband remembers when they were planted. He was a teenager, “there we no trees when we moved in. Nada. Nil. We planted everything.” Twenty years later there is a twenty-five foot apricot tree and a fifteen foot one. There is also a thirty-foot shade tree. There used to be a plum. Two years ago we retired her. Every time I walk by where she lived I see her shadow.
Now the grandmother apricots are old. Their skin is cracked. Their limbs set heavily from their torso. Large amber crystalline orbs–evidence of a Borer worm damage– rise like arthritic knots from their knees. Still, they give life.
We don’t expect fruit every year. The larger tree produces blossoms only sporadically but the small one always does, by the thousands. If we don’t end up with fruit it is because of the greedy spring frosts and winds. Every 2-3 years we actually get fruit. I think of the fruit as the elder tree’s children. The trees work hard to bring them safe through the spring.
This year the harvest was small- perhaps a few hundred. Every morning and evening we’d amble out with our straw colored Goodwill basket and collect 8-12 fruit. In the evening the fruit was warm on the tongue and dripping with juice. My daughter and I would laugh and wipe it off our chins with our shirts. After about 5 days I could see the harvest was dwindling. I began to feel sad. I wanted grandmother’s children to be with us longer. The best way I know to do this is to make Deborah Madison’s apricot- lavender refrigerator jam.
I suppose I could can the jam. But with the small quantities of fruit I had it hardly seemed worth the effort. Besides my favorite part about this jam recipe is that it uses the apricot kernel.
So, late one evening, after my daughter was asleep, I carved the apricots into seven cups of half moons. I crept into the garage and with my kitchen mallet I struck open twelve apricot pits to release the delicate almond shaped kernel. I bit into a kernel and swooned at the taste- marzipan tinged bitter liqueur. It is something so magnificent I can imagine myself, in another life, carrying just one in a silk pouch back home from a long journey– just so my loved ones could have the pleasure of tasting this kernel.
I plopped each kernel into a pan swollen with the apricots, added 6 lavender springs and half cup of sugar. After fifteen minutes of bubbling l set the pan to cool. After it was cool, I jarred it and put it in the fridge.
This morning I dropped a round dollop of jam on my yogurt. I swirled the two together and placed on my tongue the very essence of a tree- her fruit and her kernel. Life on a spoon. The last bite, until next year.
In a good year (this was 2012):
Making the jam: