Apricot paste, a thick fruit leather-like confection, is a popular Middle Eastern treat.
There is a family story that my mother ate tons of fresh apricots from the German market across the street while pregnant with me. Maybe that’s why I have always loved apricots. Fresh apricots are best, but I won’t turn down dried apricots, glaceed apricots, canned apricots or even apricot nectar.
So since I moved to an apricot growing region, I have taken advantage of the all-to-brief apricot season to make lots of apricot jams, apricot syrup, apricot sorbet and savory apricot sauce. But this week I also made apricot paste.
What is Apricot Paste?
You may have seen apricot paste while wondering through a gourmet shop or Middle Eastern market. It is similar to Membrillo, or quince paste, and used the same way. Basically apricot paste is a very concentrated apricot puree, thicker than a fruit leather but not as gelled or sweet as jelly candies.
Making Apricot Paste
Apricot paste isn’t difficult to make and doesn’t take many apricots. It does take a little bit of time, but the resulting flavor explosion is worth every minute.
I was inspired by a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves by Linda Ziedrich. Ms. Ziedrich recommends putting the apricots through a food mill, but she is obviously more ambitious than I am. I have a food mill, but it is tucked away in a cupboard and seldom sees the light of day. Instead, I followed the same method used when making membrillo and pureed the apricots. Still worked fine.
Uses for Apricot Paste
Apricot paste is rich, so a little goes a long way. Serve with slices of cheese, nuts, and olives for a satisfying afternoon snack. Just thinking of this combination has me picturing a Mediterranean beach and glasses of ouzo. Of course, if you can’t wait for afternoon, you can eat it for breakfast like I did the pictured examples above!
- 5 cups of halved, pitted fresh apricots (about 2 lbs)
- 2 Tbsp water
- 2 cups sugar (rose or lemon flavored sugar would be a nice addition)
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- Add apricots and water to a large, preferably non-stick, saucepan.
- Bring almost to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until apricots are tender.
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Transfer to a food processor, or use an immersion blender.to puree the fruit. You should have about 5 cups of puree.
- Return puree to saucepan. Add sugar and lemon juice.
- Simmer mixture over low to medium-low heat until mixture thickens, stirring often to prevent scorching. This took me about 1 and ¼ hours.
- Thickened mixture will leave a clear space in the pan when you pull your spoon through it.
- Pour into a greased 8 x 8 pan and let cool.
- Let the paste dry at room temperature until the top is dry and no longer sticky. Remove from pan, invert and let the bottom dry. This may take anywhere from 2-3 days in an arid environment to a week or more. Alternatively, dry in a food dehydrator or set in the sun to dry (cover with cheesecloth to keep the bugs away!).
- Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.
How Apricot Paste Differs from Membrillo
Apricot paste is softer than membrillo. This is because apricots have almost no natural pectin, while quince are full of natural pectin. Therefore the texture, while similar, is not as jelly-like as membrillo.