Monday, December 30, 2013

Dried Apricots

I had six dried apricots today. Yeah, I know. That can be digestively dangerous. But you can't just eat one dried apricot.

Every Christmas Karen gets me a bag of dried apricots and I try my hardest to make the bag last until February. I never make that goal. Typically they are all eaten by the second week in January. Dried apricots always take me back to my childhood.

We had two apricot trees on the side of your house. I loved those trees, for the most part. First of all, they were easy to climb. None of us kids were too skilled at climbing. But those trees made me feel like I could climb anything even though they were just six to eight feet off the ground.

Besides the climbing, there were the apricots. They were such an easy fruit to pick. There were no thorns to worry about, very few insects, and all the fruit was well within my reach. Sometimes, when the apricots were close to being ripe, I would climb in the trees and eat them while there was still a hint of  green to get a great tart flavor.

I said I loved those trees for the most part. The part none of us liked was the chore of cleaning up the rotten apricots that fell to the ground. We had to get an old metal bucket and walk around both trees looking for rotten fruit. It was so gross to pick up the gooey ones. The worse was to pick up the ones that had been stepped on. They got sticky, smelly juice all over your hands. I hate being sticky.

As there were five of us kids, Mom made a chore rotation so we only had to clean up one of the two trees per week.  It could have been one tree, it could have been 100, it didn’t matter. I simply hated that job.

The only thing that made it bearable was to get to my tree before one of my siblings got to theirs. Rather than fill the bucket, I would carefully pickup each spoiled fruit and throw it under the other tree to increase the workload of my sibling. Likely, they did the same thing so we were passing the same fruit back and forth for weeks. 

I know, it was more work to pick up the fruit and throw it than it was to simply put it in the bucket. But that didn't matter, the goal was to make life more miserable for my siblings.  

But, I digress, this post was to be about dried apricots.

At harvest time, we all pitched in and helped Mom pick the apricots. Once picked,  we split them in half and removed the seed. After they were halved, we placed the fruit on plywood shelves Dad had made. We had to leave a round spot the size of a tuna can on the middle. That that was were Mom would put the sulfur used to cure the fruit.

Each shelf fit perfectly in the small smoker Dad built. Because Dad built it, it would last forever. It was made of ¾ inch plywood and was sturdy enough to be a bomb shelter in the event of a nuclear holocaust. It could fit about four to six shelves at a time. It smelled like rotten eggs. But I knew in a matter of days I would have be best snack in the whole world. I bravely endured the smell.

After a day or two of being smoked, we removed the shelves from the smoker and placed the shelves on the roof at the back of the house. It was a sticky and difficult job to get the shelves up the ladder and on the roof without spilling any of the fruit. It was sticky too. I have being sticky.

Once on the roof, we covered the apricots with cheesecloth and waited for the sun to do its job. I was just days away from the best part of the process, removing the apricots, now dried, from the shelves and putting them into plastic bags. Whenever possible, I volunteered to do that job.


Because I had free access to the best food in the world. One for the bag and one for me.

After about 15 or so freshly dried apricots I was sick to my stomach. So I would make a mad dash from the ladder to the bathroom. After that harrowing experience, I was fairer with my apricot distribution. Now it was 20 in the bag and one for me. Still, I would consume about 20-30 dried apricots each time I “helped.”

I think I have addictive tendencies. Lucky I don’t drink or smoke.

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