Several readers called in response to today's In Season feature in Food & Wine. (Read it at http://bit.ly/17KsqB5 .) They complained that supermarket apricots are "tasteless" or worse.
A lot has to do with variety. About 85 percent of the California apricot crop is now Patterson, which has less sugar than Blenheim and other old-school apricots. Also, commercial apricots are picked when still firm and don't get sweeter as they ripen.
The best place to get full-flavored ripe apricots is your own backyard. Apricots are among the easiest fruit trees to grow in California. Some good varieties to try: Autumn Glo (a late-bearing variety that ripens in August), Gold Kist and Tropic Gold. All rate very high in natural sugars.
Now what to do with ripe apricots (including Pattersons): Try this sauce, adapted from Nicole Routhier's "Fruit Cookbook" (Workman Publishing).
Combine 1/4 cup sugar with 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Add to the syrup 1/2 pound apricots, halved and pitted. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook until the fruit is tender, about 5 minutes.
Drain the apricots, reserving the syrup. Puree the fruit in a blender with 1/4 cup of the reserved syrup and 2 tablespoons powdered sugar. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little more syrup.
Transfer to a jar, refrigerate and use within one week. It's a wonderful dessert topping over cake, ice cream or pudding. This same recipe works with peaches and mangoes, too.