March 2018

Champagne-Poached Apricots


8 oz. dried apricots (about 1/2 cup packed) 
4 cups water
3/4 cup champagne or dry sparkling wine
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns
1 star anise pod
1 whole clove
12 green cardamom pods
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean
1 lemon zest strip
1 orange zest strip


Put the apricots in a small heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring 3 cups of the water to a boil over high heat. Pour the boiling water over the apricots and let sit for 20 minutes to begin to soften. 

Meanwhile, combine the champagne, the remaining 1 cup water, the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan. Cut a small square of cheesecloth. Place the peppercorns, star anise, clove, cardamom, and cinnamon stick on the cheesecloth, bring the edges together, and tie securely with kitchen twine to create a small sachet. Using a pairing knife, cut the vanilla bean in half again along its length. Use the knife to flatten the pod gently against the countertop and then scrape the seeds on to the blade. Add the vanilla seeds and pod, the sachet, and strips of zest to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes to combine the flavors and reduce slightly. 

When the apricots have finished their presoak, fish them out with a slotted spoon and add them to the saucepan with the syrup. Crumple a small sheet of parchment paper, then smooth it out a little and press it onto the surface of the apricots to keep them submerged. Simmer — just barely so the liquid doesn't reduce too much and the apricots don't fall apart — for about 20 minutes, stirring very gently every 5 minutes, until the apricots are nice and plump but haven't broken down. Remove the vanilla pod from the syrup and pour the apricots and the syrup into an airtight container. Let cool completely and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. (If you're worried the apricots are overcooked or they look like they're falling apart, remove the fruit right away from the liquid and spread the pieces out on a baking sheet. Let the fruit and the liquid cool completely, then recombine them in the container.)

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