Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January 9, Apricot Day

Apricot Stone,
Eva Rivas, Armenia

Spanish explorers introduced the apricot to California in the 18th century, and recorded history indicates in 1792 the first major California crop was produced. By 1920, the California apricot was flourishing in the Santa Clara Valley. Eventually California apricot farms found their way to the San Joaquin Valley after World War II.

The Apricot Producers of California (APC)

In 1961, the Apricot Producers of California (APC) was established. It is a non-profit cooperative association providing information and services to its grower-members within the major apricot producing areas of California.

APC created a website, which features practical information about California apricots. It contains nutritional information, serving suggestions and tips on using and selecting California apricots, APC is actively involved in lobbying governmental and trade organizations; sponsorship of a variety of educational and informational efforts to the foodservice industry, dietitians, and consumers; participation and attendance of trade shows and continued media enhancement.

Today, there are over four hundred apricot growers. They produce apricots from orchards covering 21,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley and northern California. About 95 percent of the apricots grown in the U.S. come from California.

Apricot Selection and Storage
Fresh apricots range in color from yellow to deep orange. Avoid green apricots, as they will not ripen. When selecting fresh apricots, look for fruits soft to the touch and juicy, these are ready to eat. The fruits vary in size from about 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches in diameter. The apricot should have a bright, ripe aroma. Stay away from bruised, soft, or mushy apricots.

Apricots will ripen at room temperature or can be stored in the refrigerator to prevent over ripening. A hard apricot can ripen by placing it in a paper bag for one to two days. To freeze apricots, cut the fruit in half and place on a baking sheet until frozen, once they are frozen, store in plastic freezer bags up to 3 months.

Apricots can be purchased fresh, canned, frozen, pureed, dried and as nectar both in juice and concentrated form.

Nutrition Information
Apricots are rich in beta-carotene, Vitamin C, potassium, iron and Vitamin A. They are also high in fiber and low in saturated fat and sodium. Apricots contain no cholesterol. Just three apricots contain 40 percent of the daily requirement of Vitamin A.

Apricots are great to eat raw, but they are excellent in fruit salads and added to baked goods such as pies, cakes, muffins, breads, puddings and ice cream. They can be used in cooking and are compatible with many poultry and pork dishes.

Canned apricots can be added to cereals, yogurt, cottage cheese and smoothies. Fresh, canned, frozen or even dried apricots can be served on top of waffles and pancakes. They can be pureed and used as a fat substitute. 

Recipe: Savory Fresh Apricot Bites
Serves 12. Each serving equals 1/2 cup of fruit or vegetables
Nutritional analysis per serving. Calories 77, Protein 3g, Fat 3g, Calories From Fat 26%, Carbohydrates 10g, Cholesterol 0mg, Fiber 2g, Sodium 52mg.
Source: California Fresh Apricot Council

4 oz fat-free cream cheese, softened
12 fresh apricots, halved
½ cup pistachios, finely chopped

Stir cream cheese until smooth; pipe or spoon into apricot halves. Sprinkle tops with  pistachios. Serve as an appetizer, snack, or dessert.

Red Cabbage with Apricots and Balsamic Vinegar

Serves 6.
Nutritional analysis per serving. Calories 165, Protein 2g, Fat 8g, Calories From Fat 40%, Carbohydrates 25g, Cholesterol 20mg, Fiber 3g, Sodium 29mg.
Source. Bon Appétit
4 tablespoons butter
1 8-ounce red onion, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1½-pound cored red cabbage, quartered and very thinly sliced
½ cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
¼ cup apricot preserves
¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste. Melt butter in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, allspice and nutmeg and toss for 1 minute. Add cabbage and apricots and sauté until well coated, about 2 minutes. Add apricot preserves and vinegar and toss until juices are reduced to glaze and cabbage is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cabbage can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.

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