Apricot Compote

My dear friend, Sean, gave me some apricots out of the rows upon rows she had on her kitchen counter—and so I used them to make this simple compote. The photo shows the apricots as they just began to cook. The final product is a happy orange slush!

Apricot Compote

1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup (or less) maple syrup
1 strip of lemon zest, about 1/2″ wide
1 vanilla bean, broken up and tied inside a cheesecloth bag
1-1/2 pounds (24 ounces) fresh ripe apricots, pitted, halved, and chopped

After pitting the apricots, roast the whole pits in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes. This will neutralize the amygdalin, which our bodies convert to cyanide. Once cool, crack the pits open and retrieve the kernels—known as noyaux—that are nesting inside. You can use a nutcracker to crack them open over a deep bowl (they fly everywhere) or place the noyaux on a towel in the driveway and tap them with a hammer. If this all seems like too much work, you can skip dealing with the pits if you’d like…but the work will repay you in wonderful aromas of almonds and flowers that they’ll bring to your compote.

In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine the orange juice, maple syrup, lemon peel, lemon juice, vanilla bean, and apricot pit kernels (wrapped in a knotted cheesecloth). Bring to a boil.

As NY Times columnist, Samin Nosrat writes, “Heat coaxes the perfume out of the noyaux and into the preserves. Laced with the intoxicating aroma of almonds and flowers, the resulting jam is an improbable improvement over the natural perfection of ripe stone fruit. I squeeze every drop of noyaux essence from the jelly bag once it’s cool.”

Add the chopped apricots and return to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer very gently for about 45 minutes, until the liquid has reduced to a syrup and the apricots have broken down. Remove the two cheesecloth bags and lemon peel. Taste for sweetness and adjust, if needed.

Serve over ice cream, on top of panna cotta, layered in a parfait glass with cookie chunks, or, as my grandma used to do, over thick slices of toasted homemade bread (ah, memories).