Of Apricots and Other Prodigal Fruit

One of my favourite pueblos on the island is Porreres. Around this time of the year Porreres is in the news because of the apricot harvest. Porreres is the apricot capital of Mallorca. In the past, the cultivation of apricots has brought wealth and affluence to this little market town. Nowadays apricots take a lesser role in the village’s fortunes but even today, no other community in Mallorca produces more apricots than Porreres, be that in its fresh shape or in its dried state. This year some 100 tons of the fruit are expected to be harvested, here.

Every year, Porreres celebrates the Fira de l’Albercoc as part of the Festes de Sant Joan. This year, due to the strange meteorological conditions we all suffered in May here in Mallorca, the Fira was postponed for two weeks – the apricots had not ripened at their customary period – and was celebrated last Saturday, June 22nd. By the way, we celebrate Sant Joan today, June 24th.

apricots

Porreres was also known in the past to distill apricots and other fruit into clear spirits. This practice seems to be outlawed now, but I wonder. I do know though that Can Parrí in Porreres sells excellent dried apricots covered in dark chocolate. Divine. You should try some.

The apricot season in Mallorca is a very short one, spanning perhaps three weeks sometime around the middle of June. Last year had not been a good year for apricots, at least where I live. The fruit had been good, but there was not a lot of it, somehow. On a tree that normally is laden with hundreds of apricots, there were only a dozen of them, last year. Or one, or none. So there hadn’t been any home made apricot jam in our household, a year ago.

This year, all is back to normal. The prodigal apricot seems to have come back, all repentant. Apricot trees are laden again with plenty of sweet fruits, albeit a week or two late, and my wife is busy right now making her much appreciated apricot jam, as well as baked apricot crumble and stewed apricot compote. Deliciously yummy.

coca-de-albaricoque

One of the delights of Mallorcan pastry marvels, the Coca de Albaricoques, is only ever served during the Apricot season. Try some before the Summer is over. This pastry is one of the most common traditional Mallorcan sweets and is usually made with fresh apricots. As the apricot season lasts no longer than ten weeks, fresh apricots can also be frozen to be used for the Coca de Albaricoques later in the year. But never use the dried variety.

Here is what you need to make and bake a Coca de Albaricoques: 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1 cup of sugar, 4 eggs, 250 gr white flower, 1/2 package of baking powder, 10 or 12 apricots. If you want to do the Coca de Albaricoques the authentic way, you would also include small pieces of Sobrassada but, you would be forgiven if you didn’t.

Recently I learned that there is a late apricot variety in Porreres and elsewhere, the albaricoque de Galta Vermella, which is only ready in mid-July. The Galta Vermella apricot is said to be the best quality there is, in apricot speak, with a slightly larger size and a firmer flesh to it, and with a distinctive aroma and sweetness. The same apricot is also sometimes called the Galta Roja. The Galta Vermella apricot grows mainly in the Porreres area. The Porrerenses know a thing or two about apricots; they learned many years ago that the best way to deal with tons and tons of the same fruit within a very short period of time is to preserve the fruit by drying it. That is why not very many Galta Vermella apricots make it from Porreres to the rest of the island. Instead of selling the best apricot there is, the people of Porreres cut the fruit open, de-stone it and put the halved fruits into the sun to dry. That way, the fruit can be eaten later in the year. The same drying process is being applied to figs and grapes and, to some extent, to tomatoes.

The peculiarity of apricot trees taking an occasional ‘time-out’ is also known to sometimes occur with other fruit, such as plums, almonds and cherries, here in Mallorca. The occasional but somehow regular absence of your favourite fruit seems as if the tree is on a sabbatical, only to make a repentant return the following year. Strange as it may sound, it is quite fascinating.

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