Sunday, July 08, 2007

blenheim bliss (or, when child labor is a good thing)

Mmmmmmm. Apricots.
A lot of apricots.

More specifically, a lot of Blenheim apricots.

Like, 11 pounds worth.
Time to get to work.

H was just dying to use the borrowed canning supplies her mom brought to us on her last visit. She announced her desire for jam. I suggested that we start with some apricot, since I knew of a few sources of these heavenly jewels at the Berkeley Farmers' Market, and know that they won't be around much longer. And if it's gonna be apricot jam, then why not go with what some (like myself) consider the definition of apricot-dom: the Blenheim.

These rose tinged marvels can be overwhelmingly good.

So good, you just might have a dozen for lunch. Along with a corndog, and maybe half a peach if you're three, working on four. Luckily for us, our monkey has a gut made of steel and ingesting a huge quantity of fruit doesn't seem to be a problem. (Kinda makes you wish you could sit down and polish off a dozen of ANY of your favorite fruit huh?) They say "youth is wasted on the young," and being the proud father of two monkeys, I'm beginning to really see where this saying comes from. But in this case, the only waste is bound for the compost.

While I cruised around the house, with the little one on my arm, we directed the elder toward helping get the fruit jammed. You see, little hands are great at ripping open apricots and tossing the seeds. Now if only we can work on the focus and get that child labor to last for more than five minutes, we'd maybe go into business making the stuff. Then again, maybe not, as it would be illegal. Besides, those little hands tend to stuff the nearest mouth (their own) with the fruit of our labor, bringing the daily consumption count to somewhere near twenty apricots. That's right: two-zero. And still no intestinal distress.

Luckily, when the jam jars are fruit filled, there is always a smidge left that should be consumed, and right away. Especially if your partner has recently had a craving for poundcake. Put some on top of the buttery block of goodness and you are at least two steps closer to heaven. Eat it and you just might feel that if a bolt of lightening were to stike you dead in the next moment.......then life had certainly been worth living. Well, that and the kids I mean. You see, I really love apricots.

So, back to that child labor thing. A few weeks ago, when I first saw Blenheims at the market, I brought only 3 pounds home. When the monkey saw them on the counter she started snarfing them down. I did too. But I also managed a bit of restraint and got about a third of them safely tucked away for making ice cream. I expalined this to the monkey and she was enthusiatic, especially when I said that she could help. Tomorrow at grandma's we would follow through.

Luckily, when we arrived, papa was outside washing the car, and since water and sponges are so much fun, our vehicle got some tender rubbing from little hands and big, while I went in the kitchen and got things ready for the cold and creamy apricot bliss.

I put some cream in a pot and added a bit of sugar. I cooked the apricots (with more sugar) into a slightly chunky syrup. With the salt ready, a waiting ball (thanks Shuna!), and a freezer filled with ice, the time was now.

Now, where did the labor go? This ice cream needs some little ones to roll it around. Make them work for their treats I say.

Grandma was blessed with both of her grand-daughters for the day. I was blessed with two little people to work for their sweets, so I packed the ball with yummy ingredients in one end and salty ice in the other. Then I set it between the girls and encouraged a game of rolling the ball between them. It took some patience, and the ball was really a bit too heavy for them to roll back and forth quickly, but it got the ice cream started all the same. After the little ones burnt out on the fun (still working on delayed gratification I guess) I sat down on the couch and practised my ballhandling skills with my feet while taking in a good book.

With the ice cream done and us now back at home, we gave it a try. It was good. But it still needed a little something.

Like maybe a little more sliced something, as I just can't get enough of these things.
Can you?

Go now.
Treat yourself to some apricot bliss. But unless you have an iron gut or are under the age of five, keep it to under twenty per day......


K & S said...

I don't think I've ever had fresh apricots, only dried. This sounds fantastic and what a great way to get the kids involved :)

Leena! said...

It's funny how you mention iron guts...I have several stories from my youth (and sadly, adult) life that involve me consumely an ungodly portion of food. Chili. Soy Sauce. McDonald's Ketchup Packets.
Good times. She's a foodie in the making!

Callipygia said...

Gosh those apricots look gorgeous! I've always loved how easy they are to split and stuff in mouth- but god no, never 20. The jam on poundcake, the ice cream... child labor never looked so good!

chilebrown said...

All right trade? Some Jam for some bacon. I got a big ole fat piece of Buckboard Bacon for a taste of those Blenheim. Call me or Biggles!

Joanna said...

Ah, apricots! I love them too. I grew up with this massive apricot tree in the backyard that produced hundreds and hundreds of excellent pieces of fruit. We stewed 'em, jammed 'em, ate them off the tree. I guess I have that iron gut because I've easily consumed 20 in a day on multiple days this past month.

(By the way, my monkey, who's 5, would be totally content living on nothing but fruit. Unlike yours, however, mine does sometimes mention that his "waist" hurts after I let him binge. Bad mom.)

Ok, but the real reason I'm writing is because I've been wondering lately why the Blenheims get the spotlight? This is a real question. I've been getting them in my box from Riverdog, and have bought some from a few different farms at the market, but honestly? I've been much more pleased with whatever the varieties I've been buying from Frog Hollow. Back in early June they were these big - really big - blush-colored 'cots that were truly to die for. Way more than one bite per fruit, like the Blenheims are. Don't remember the name. (Come to think of it, maybe they were some kind of hybrid?) Now Frog Hollow's got out some called, like Sunsweet or Sundown or something, and I still like them at least as much as the Blenheims. (I tried to do a side-by-side taste test, but when it comes down to it, they were all just so damn good I couldn't really decide.)

So, anyway, what's all the fuss over Blenheims about? Help me understand...

chilebrown said...

Joanna, I think it comes down to Marketing. You have remembered the Name "Blenheims". Eat what tastes good and local. You and your Monkey will be fine,

Monkey Wrangler said...

K&S: I guess growing up in Hawaii would explain that one. You are missing out on a real treat, but from what I hear, I'm missing out on Japanese plums.....

Leena: I just knew you had an iron gut! Maybe we should collaborate sometime, or start a meme of sorts that asks for people's experiences with overindulgence. (And I'm sorry for killing you with the fresh fruit post.)

Calli: You wussy. C'mon, try 25 the next time you feel the need for some system "purification."

Chile: I'll have to check with the jam boss and get back to you on that one.

Joanna: For me, Blenheims are the "archetypal" apricot of my youth. Sweet, but not overly, with a nice red blush, and.......small. Believe me, I love ALL apricots, apriums, etc., but the Blennies are what bring back the body memory.

When you say you tried a few different vendors, was Efren of Avalos Farms one of them? I also tried others, but his were the best in my opinion, (and also the cheapest, especially in bulk) with the most red on them too, in which there seems to be a difference with flavor.

I hope this helped. If you want to talk about it more, I'm at the Tuesday market in the evening, from about 5:30 till close, working the Ecology Center Booth.

Also......did you know about the peach tasting event this Saturday? The Berkeley Farmers' Market, as part of their 20th anniversary celebration will be doing a peach and other stone fruit tasting, where folks will be able to waltz right up and taste fruit from the different vendors side by side. I'll be there too, 9:30-10am giving out fruit. I'm the tall bearded guy, usually in an A's cap.

Catch you soon.

Kevin said...

I'm all in favor of child labor (unless I'm the child.)

Monkey Wrangler said...

Kevin: Yeah, I too remember with utmost dread the 140 hours of cranking.

I'm finding that as a parent, a big source of enjoyment can be applying new thinking to old problems, and the ice cream ball is just that. Besides, it keeps the small workforce mobile by encouraging them to roll it down hills and such.

I'll have to try the buttermilk concoction.....if my monkey is up to the task.

Tea said...

Oh my, but that looks good. I say the ends justify the means--and that ice cream sounds like some powerful justification!

Rev. Biggles said...

Heh, yeah, focus. Seems as time rolls by and get older, they have plenty of focus. It just isn't directed at anything specific.


Monkey Wrangler said...

Tea: Thanks! Have I mentioned before that I like the way you think?

Irreverend: I've heard thus......and it scares me.

kudzu said...

Ohl lord, your apricot adcentures sound great! And thanks for endorsing the ice cream ball. I've thought of getting one for a couple of little boys I know but had no feedback from whether these actually appeal to kids. Appears it's fun and reminds me of the fence painting a la Mark Twain.

Stacie said...

grew up with a tree in my SoCal backyard... raking up fermenting apricots... ewww! unwanted teen-age chore from hell. i got 5 lbs of blueberries in my fridge... nener nener!! and awaiting a bushel, whatever that is, of peaches... and hoping for an ice cream maker for the b-day.. peach ice cream! oh yeah, baby! thanks for the inspiration.

Rev. Biggles said...

Oh man, don't forget pooberty. Z is getting hit fairly hard, and so am I. So to speak. So, I feed him pork and it seems to be making him smile.