At the Auckland Farro Fresh Food store tasting sessions of Augustines of Central preserved apricot and quince products I told customers good fresh Central Otago apricots won’t be available until after Christmas. But for the first time in 103 years apricots were picked in Central at the end of November.
At the tastings I am often asked of ways to serve Gus’s delicious apricots. I spied another Otago product Cowell’s Pavlova stacks alongside the apricots on the Christmas display and this gave me an idea.
It’s a dessert construction idea really for when you haven’t the time to cook but will have a wow factor. That evening I tried it out with the help of my daughter Tansy.
To really celebrate Gus’s apricot preserves I generously topped the pavlovas with Augustine’s apricot jam. It adds colour and extra sweetness. For a tarter flavour you cold puree some of the apricots instead.
Next I whisked some excellent local mascarpone cream made by Il Casaro cheesemakers that’s stocked by Farro Fresh and the cheesemakers can be found at the Grey Lynn market each Sunday.
Alternatively use a double cream or 50/50 combination. I chose the mascarpone cream to be firm enough to hold the fruit topping and add a richness.
Grate any good dark chocolate over the top. I used a Trade Aid almond dark chocolate.
Just before putting together drain the apricots reserving the juice to return the unused apricots to it. They need to be drained because if too wet will make the cream topping run.
I placed the apricot cut side down that looked a little like an egg. Tansy suggested turning them up the other way so we could create an apricot basket and add a strawberry.
Tansy sliced strawberries from her garden and added a mint tip to each stack creating the red and green for Christmas.
Back home in Portobello and I made these again for our friends Jan and Wal from Christchurch as part of an early Christmas celebration. We used whole strawberries from Butlers of South Canterbury and the cream was 50/50 mascarpone and Holy Cow Jersey double cream from Port Chalmers that we picked up at the Otago Farmers Market.
The apricot is a diverse fruit and has different flavours when fresh, dried or preserved. Preserving intensifies the flavour and the tartness of the fruit comes through. We describe Gus’s preserved apricots as “summer in a jar” because he captures the sun ripened fruit when they are perfect. The addition of a Central Otago Reisling wine in the syrup gives another dimension to the preserves.
Whether fresh or preserved apricots are truly a fruit that celebrates a great summer.