California produces 95% of the apricots grown in the United States, with most of the orchards located in the San Joaquin Valley.
You can find fresh California apricots at your grocer and at farmer's markets from approximately mid-May through the early part of July. Fresh apricots are also imported from Chile, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico.
Fortunately, we aren't limited to only a couple of months out of the year where we can enjoy California-grown apricots, as they are also available dried and canned. Del Monte has a brand called Orchard Select, offering premium variety apricot halves packaged in old-fashioned mason-style jars.
Simply Sensational... California Apricots is a modern recipe booklet published by the California Apricot Advisory Board. It's undated and has 28 recipes that use fresh, canned and dried California apricots. Nutritional information is given for the canned and dried varieties.
A few of the recipes in this booklet that use fresh apricots are Apricot Stuffed Chicken, Pasta Apricot Salad, Apricot and Pork Salad, and Irresistible Fresh Apricot Pies.
Stir-Fry Pork and Apricots, Apricot Pina Colada, and Spiced Apricot Sauce are some that used the canned variety.
Dried apricots are a great snack all by themselves, but you can also use them in these recipes: Apricot Chutney, Apricot Pumpkin Muffins and Apricot Whole Wheat Bread.
I've included the following recipe for Apricot Pepper Jelly because I think it would make a nice Christmas or holiday hostess gift. Since fresh California apricots aren't in season right now, you can easily find the dried. This recipe is one of those from the booklet.
APRICOT PEPPER JELLY
This gourmet jelly is superb with cream cheese and crackers and is a zippy complement to roasts.
1 cup red or green bell pepper strips (about 1 med. pepper)
2 cups cider vinegar
1/3 cup drained canned (or bottled) whole jalapeno peppers, rinsed; stems and seeds removed*
1 to 1-1/4 cups dried California apricot halves, finely slivered (6 oz. bag)
6 cups sugar
1 pouch (3 oz.) liquid pectin
5 drops red or green food color (depends upon type of bell pepper used)
Combine pepper strips, vinegar and jalapeno peppers in an electric blender. Process stop-and-go fashion until somewhat ground, but small chunks remain. Combine with apricot strips and sugar in saucepan; bring to a boil. Boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat; skim off any foam. Cool 2 minutes, then mix pectin and food color. Pour into sterilized jars and fasten lids. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes if desired. Cool.
* If available, use 1/3 cup fresh jalapeno peppers instead of the bottled ones.
Makes 6-1/2 cups.