It’s been stone fruit season in South Australia, and the weather has been of the best growing kind. We live on a five acre block in the Adelaide Hills that used to be, so the story goes, an experimental orchard. We have a random assortment of old fruit trees peppering the slopes above the river that creates our lower boundary.
Most of the fruit trees have seen better days thanks to the previous owners’ goat, so we tend to just let them be. If we manage to beat the birds to a harvest of fruit we’re happy. If the birds get it all that’s okay too. The antics of the baby rainbow lorikeets outside our windows are worth it!
One crop we did want to savour this year was the mulberries – sweet, tangy and indescribably delicious. As my youngest and I were filling our baskets we got a lovely surprise.
‘Are they apricots?’ she asked.
‘They can’t be…we don’t have an apricot tree.’ I looked closer. ‘They are apricots!!’
A little tree that had stood idle all these years was now proudly bearing fruit. So we picked ourself a good basketful of sweet, velvety apricots. Tarts and smoothies followed, and when some gifted apricots arrived on my doorstep I put a big batch in the dehydrator to dry.
Drying them yourself will result in a browner apricot than you might be used to. The bright orange colour of conventional dried apricots is due to the addition of sulphur dioxide, a preservative widely used in the food and wine industry. While most people don’t notice any immediate side effects, it can be problematic for asthmatics, particularly children, and can also cause severe allergic reactions and gastric irritation.
Look for sulphur dioxide free dried fruits at your local farmers market – if stone fruit grows in your area, you’ll be bound to find some there.
Drying fruit concentrates the sugars in them, so treat dried fruit as you would any other sweet foods – not too much at once. I decided to use some of them to make a big batch of natural muesli. It takes just minutes to prepare, and is free of the refined sugar and vegetable (palm) oil that tend to hide in commercial varieties.
You can eat it simply with milk of your choice and fresh fruit, or you can soak it in the fridge overnight with milk or yoghurt. Stir through some grated apple in the morning and you have a delicious, Bircher style muesli.
This recipe makes a big batch. It will keep for a good couple of months, but if you think you won’t use it that quickly, just halve the recipe.
Apricot & Almond Muesli - makes 1.65 kg
- 1 kg wholegrain rolled oats
- 200 g dried apricots
- 100 g coconut flakes
- 150 g almonds, roughly chopped
- 50 g pepitas
- 50 g pumpkin seeds
- 100 g sultanas
Put the oats into a large bowl. Slice the apricots into 2 mm slices and add to the oats. Rub them through the oats with your fingers, making sure all the slices are separated as they tend to want to stick together.
Add the other ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container.