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Archive for the ‘Apricots’ Category

Drupe Dumplings


Like cherries, apricots are drupes, fruits with a fleshy outer layer around a pit or stone containing a seed inside. Split open an apricot stone and you will find the seed or kernel. Amaretto, one of my favorite alcoholic beverages, is made from apricot kernels. Many an apricot jam recipe also suggests adding a few kernels to the batch of jam to boost the flavor. However, everything in moderation – the glucoside amygdalin is present in the kernels. When amygdalin combines with certain enzymes, cyanide is a byproduct. This does not seem to stop people from eating the kernels. Aware of their toxicity, I was quite surprised to see a bag of apricot kernels the other day at a store that sells organic food and natural health and beauty products. I suspect they are in demand due to dubious claims that amygdalin can prevent cancer.

At any rate, the fleshy layer of drupes is safe for consumption! Despite having lived in Austria for nearly seven years now, only recently did I try Marillenknödel, or apricot dumplings, for the first time. It was one of the most delicious dishes I have eaten and has supplanted my beloved Kaiserschmarren mit Zwetschkenröstern as my favorite traditional Austrian food. These delicious dumplings were prepared by a friend according to her mother’s recipe, which she agreed to share with me for this blog. There are different ways of making the dough, for example with potatoes or with cheese. For this recipe, you prepare a Brandteig, which is like choux pastry.

Marillenknödel

Ingredients

8-10 apricots

For the Brandteig:

125 ml (½ cup) water

125 ml (½ cup) milk

60 g (4 Tbs) butter

200 g (1 2/3 cup) flour

2 eggs

For the topping:

More butter

Bread crumbs

Powdered sugar

Bring the water and milk to a boil, then melt the butter. Add the flour and stir until clumps form. Remove from heat and cool for around 30 minutes. Add the eggs.

Using your fingers, stretch the dough into circles the size of the palm of your hand. Place one apricot in the middle and fold and seal the dough uniformly around the apricot until you have a dumpling that resembles a baseball. If necessary, use water to increase the stretch of the dough. If you prefer, you can remove the stone by cutting the apricot in half, but be sure to use one whole apricot per dumpling.

Bring water in a large pot to a boil. Lower the dumplings in and boil until they rise to the surface. Drain.


Melt some butter in a pan. Add bread crumbs and powdered sugar. Add the dumplings. Roll them in the pan, covering with the topping.

Serve with powdered sugar.

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Jam Journeywoman

Today the neighborhood jam-makers’ guild met once again, this time to process 2 kilos of sour cherries and 2 kilos of apricots. Using the same 2:1 ratio of fruit to sugar as we did two weeks ago, we came up with the following variations:

Sour cherry and lemon verbena (3 jars)

Sour cherry and walnut (3 jars)

Apricot (2 jars)

Apricot-lavender (2 jars)

Apricot-lemon verbena (1 jar)

The walnuts were toasted and then cooked with the jam; the herbs were chopped and placed in the jar before the hot jam was poured over them.


My previous jam-making post elicited some concern from a few readers because of our method of sealing the jars by igniting a thin layer of rum, putting on the lids, and inverting the jars. The consensus of the jam-makers’ guild is that nothing is certain and that there is always a risk that the jam may turn moldy. However, our eyes, noses, and taste buds are normally capable of sensing if food has gone bad, in which case we would dispose of the jam instead of eating it.

You should be familiar with sour cherries from my previous post but what about apricots? Though the apricot tree originated in Mongolia and not in Armenia, as its name Prunus armeniaca would indicate, it has a special place in Armenian culture. Cultivated in the Caucasus since at least 6000 BC, its wood is used to make the duduk, a double-reed instrument also called tsiranapogh, which means “apricot flute” in Armenian. Listen to Djivan Gasparyan, the world’s most famous dudek player, here.

Apricots also play a role in Austrian cuisine, most famously in Marillenknödel, or apricot dumplings, about which you’ll read more very soon. Faschingskrapfen, the jelly-filled donuts ubiquitous before the start of Lent, have an apricot-flavored filling. Apricot schnapps and apricot liqueurs are also common.

The first mention of apricots being cultivated in Austria was in 1679 in Lower Austria, the province where the Wachau is located. The Wachau refers to the Danube valley between Melk and Krems that is known for apricot and wine production. The Wachau apricot has the label Protected Designation of Origin established by the EU. Products claiming to have Wachau apricots in them must be produced, processed, and prepared in the region. This label is not to be confused with the label Protected Geographical Indication, which only requires that the food product be prepared, processed, or produced in the region – i.e. one of three steps instead of all of three. Styrian pumpkin seed oil falls into the latter category.

A study done in 2006 by the consumer protection association Verein für Konsumenteninformation revealed that of 28 jams professing to be made in Austria, one contained solely Austrian apricots, three contained a mixture of Austrian and imported apricots, and the rest contained apricots from other European countries and Turkey. Apparently it is enough for the product to be processed in Austria for it to be labeled “Made in Austria” – buyer beware! Frankly, I find this misleading advertising more troubling than the presence of mold in homemade jam. I guess the only way to be certain of the source of your jam is to find a local source of apricots and make it yourself.

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