California Dried Apricots
California dried apricots are not only nutritious, healthy and a great snack, but they are also ranked as "the best dried apricots" by Gourmet Magazine and boast four out of five top spots in taste tastes with Mediterranean-grown apricots. California dried apricots are high in Vitamin A, potassium, iron, and fiber and are also fat-free and cholesterol-free. They are the most nutrient-dense dried fruit.
California dried apricots were especially appealing in taste tastes because of their moistness, strong apricot flavor and well-balanced sweetness and acidity. They have been described as tender, moist and fruity. Winning brands in the "Taster's Choice" blind tasting included Mariani California Apricots, Trader Joe's California Slab Apricots, Trader Joe's Blenheim Extra Choice/Choice Apricots, and Product Stand California Dried Apricot Halves.
California dried apricots are easy to spot. Their most distinguishing characteristic is that the apricot is dried in halves. Other apricots such as Turkish apricots, are sold whole without the pit. California dried apricots are also darker orange and boast an intensely sweet yet slightly tart flavor. They are excellent for baking as they maintain their shape very well.
California apricots are dried at the peak of ripeness, when they are sweet, juicy and full of flavor. The fruit is first washed, sized and cut in half. They are then placed cut side up on trays so they can be treated to preserve nutrients and their color. The trays are placed in the sun and continually rotated for approximately three days. The fruit is then ready for washing and then packing.
California dried apricots are popular with home cooks and professional chefs alike. Their versatility makes them easily included in a wide range of recipes and presentations. They can be combined with a variety of cheeses, meats, and seafood for elegant appetizers. Side dishes using dried apricots include couscous, rice, sweet potatoes, carrots, bulgur, and green beans. They deliciously enhance entrees such as Cornish game hens, roasted chicken, lamb, roasted pork, brisket and a variety of pasta dishes. For snacking they are wonderful just as they are or included in trail mix and granola. They are a great addition to baked goods such as cookies, breads, cakes, bread puddings, bars, muffins and pies. They are especially popular chocolate dipped or as "dippers" for chocolate fondue and chocolate fountains. Sauces and condiments using California dried apricots include jams, jellies, sauces, mustards, butters, syrups and vinaigrettes.