Home Posts tagged 'apricot'

Posts Tagged ‘apricot’


Summer Lovin’: Stone Fruit Season

Bi-Rite Crew at Balakian

Bi-Rite team at Balakian Farms

The month of May is all about local cherries, but as they start to slow down in the middle of June, crops like peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, and pluots start to taste really good.  Bi-Rite’s selection of stone fruit during the summertime is a showcase of the many different local varieties and the world-class farmers who grow them.  There’s truly nothing better than sinking your teeth into a peach that was picked at the perfect ripeness so that sugars have developed into the sweet juicy goodness that makes us nostalgic for summers from childhood.

This spring the Bi-Rite Produce and Marketing teams took a field trip into the heart of Central Valley to visit a few of our favorite  organic farms, and learn more about what it takes to grow amazing organic fruit!

Mas Masomoto

Mas Masumoto, Masumoto Family Farm

Located just over 200 miles south of San Francisco in the heart of California’s conventional, industrial agriculture there are three family farms doing their best to keep organic stone fruit alive. Masumoto Family Farm in Del Rey, CA is a beautiful, 80-acre orchard of land purchased by the Masumoto family in 1948. A third-generation farmer and celebrated author, Mas Masumoto has mastered the art of building soil to support the growth of his trees.  The Masumoto family is in love with the tang of the yellow flesh fruit and seeks a sugar and acid balance that screams WOW! They’re just about to start harvesting the Flavorcrest Peach, a popular variety for conventional growers who like a firm piece of fruit that can ship.  Next up is everyone’s favorite, the freestone Sun Crest Yellow Peach, a large peach with a red blushed skin and juicy texture – this is the peach that put the Masumoto Family Farm on the map.  The last variety of stone fruit we will see from the Masumoto is the clingstone Le Grand Yellow Nectarine.  The Le Grand is a large piece of fruit with a rich sweet flavor and firm flesh which makes it awesome for making nectarine ice cream.

Peaches and nectarines are categorized in two ways, freestone and clingstone. When the flesh of the fruit is attached to the pit you have a clingstone variety. They can be the best to eat but are harder to work with in the kitchen. The meat (flesh) freestone varieties are completely detached from the pit which makes them easier to work with for canning, freezing, and cooking.

Stella Balakian

Stella Balakian, Balakian Farms

Stella Balakian moved to Reedley from Boston almost 50 years ago, and she is the heart and soul of the fourth generation Balakian Farms. For the past 15 years the Balakian family has been driving 3 ½ hours one-way to deliver fresh-picked stone fruit to the doors of Bi-Rite Market. The Balakian’s farm sits on just over 40 acres. They have diversified to grow one of the best pomegranates, which we celebrate in the Markets every fall. As far as stone fruit goes, Balakian focuses largely on early season stone fruit , but keep an eye out for the Flavor Grenade Pluot.

One of the biggest challenges facing these organic stone fruit grower in Central Valley is the limited local market for them to sell their premium organic fruit. These farms rely heavily on the markets in the Bay Area to bring them the financial return needed to survive as a small farm and pay their workers a living wage.  Most of the farms that grow us all these amazing fruits and veggies that we see at Bi-Rite are in low-income communities that can’t afford the prices for specialty organic fruits and vegetables.

Blossom Bryce and Dad

Ted & Bryce, Blossom Bluff Orchards

Blossom Bluff Orchards is located on a “bluff” overlooking the King River in Reedley, CA, and it’s one of the most stunning landscapes in the area.  As we walked the orchard it was so good to see all the wildlife taking advantage of the diversity on the farm.  The Loewen family farms on about 80 acres and grow a wide variety of stone fruit, citrus, and persimmons.  Bryce and his father, Ted, operate the farm together and they have so many different fruit varieties that Ted has to keep a little black book just to remember the locations of the each varietal.  Two of the crops the Loewen’s have mastered is plums and pluots, which are just getting underway. We are finishing up the last of the unique Black Splendor Plum with its dark purple/red skin and meaty flesh, which will be followed shortly by the Yellow Dolly Plum with perfect, yellow skin and juicy flesh.  Soon after the Dolly, the Catalina Plum will be harvested, with its dark amber skin – it is one of the sweetest plums of the season and just a taste of what you’ll see at Bi-Rite from Blossom Bluff Orchards this summer.

If biting into a sweet and juicy piece of stone fruit doesn’t get your taste buds fired up, we have a terrific recipe for Peach Cobbler from our Pastry Chef Keri,  and of course Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop is taking advantage of all of the amazing stone fruit to create all sorts of summer treats like Masumoto Peach Ice Cream and Peach Frangipane Galettes.



Apricots Are My Jam

ApricotsPrettyApricot season is here! The season is short, but these beautiful and versatile stone fruits are at their peak right now. At Bi-Rite we’re lucky to have access to lots of different varieties, including Blenheim Apricots, which are one of the best for making jam. We’ve got Blenheims in the Markets right now, so it seems like a good time to share my recipe for Apricot Jam, along with our Cheese Buyer Anthea’s recommendation for some perfect cheeses to pair with it.

The beauty of jam is that the fruit doesn’t have to be perfect. Bruised, soft, unsightly or a day overripe–jam welcomes all fruits and makes them beautiful again. A mix of less-ripe and more-ripe fruits is good; less-ripe contains more natural pectin, and more-ripe contains more sugar, so the two balance each other out nicely. You can make a big batch of jam at the height of summer ripeness and put it away until the winter, then crack it open and take yourself right back to summertime. And jams are beautiful with lots of other foods, including yogurt, toast, pork, chicken, and cheese!

I asked our Cheese Buyer, Anthea, to try my Apricot Jam and recommend cheeses to go with it. She suggested fresh chèvre such as Andante’s, but also feels that any number of fresh, creamy cheeses would do well. She also recommends sweeter jams like this one with bleu cheeses (“Mold loves sugar,” she told me), such as Bay Bleu from Point Reyes. For a harder cheese pairing, try goat cheddar. Personally, I love sneaking a schmear of jam inside of a goat cheddar grilled cheese sandwich!

Simple Apricot Jam

This recipe is easy to scale up or down and adjust according to your tastes. This recipe uses the “noyau,” or almond-like inner kernel of the apricot, to flavor the jam. Amaretto and almond extracts are traditionally made using apricot kernels rather than actual almonds because the fragrance is much stronger. Other stone fruits share this quality, such as cherries and peaches, though apricots tend to be the most potent aroma. Just crack the pits open, and remove the little “almond.”

ApricotsRosesI recently made an apricot rose jam using this recipe, just added a few handfuls of organic rose petals at the beginning of the cooking process- they candy themselves and lend a gorgeous rosy color to the jam. Rosemary, saffron or lavender are also some of my favorite variations. You can adjust the sugar and lemon juice to make it either sweeter or brighter, depending on the sweetness of the apricots. You can process this in a traditional water bath to preserve it for the coming months, or it will keep for several weeks refrigerated.


  • 1 lb apricots
  • 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar, divided in half
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon


ApricotJamCloseupWash the apricots, and chop into roughly even pieces. Save the pits. Toss the chopped apricots in a bowl with half of the sugar. Set aside to macerate for at least 10 minutes, although up to 1 hour is ideal. This will start drawing out the juices and dissolving the sugar.

Place the pits in a clean kitchen towel, and fold it over. Use a hammer, mallet or other heavy object to crack the pits open. Remove the inner almond-like kernel and place one in each of your clean jars.

Place the apricots and their juices in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and add the rest of the sugar, salt and lemon juice. Using a wider pot will make the cooking process faster, since a wider surface area will allow for the fastest evaporation of excess liquid. Place a few saucers in the freezer- you will use these to test the viscosity as the jam cooks.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a hearty simmer (you want it going pretty strong, but not so much so it is splashing hot sugar/apricot juice). Stir occasionally using a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, scraping down the sides periodically. It should take about 15 minutes after it comes to a boil to reduce down enough. Once the foam subsides, stir the bottom more often and keep a close eye on it. Be careful, it will start spattering once it thickens up, just turn the heat down a touch. Then, start testing it. Dribble a little bit of jam onto the frozen saucer and wait for it to cool down (you can put it back in the freezer for a minute or two)- this will give you an idea of how thick it will be once cool. Once it has thickened to your liking, turn it off, and ladle into clean jars over the noyaux. Seal and process or let it cool down and then refrigerate. Enjoy!