Apricots are in—yay! I’m mad about apricots, but the season is so short and fragile that I practically have to get up at dawn the day they hit the stands. It’s at best a two to three-week crop, if you’re lucky, because many is the year we never get them at all, due to inhospitable weather.
You can make a delicious apricot chutney using canned apricots, and dried apricots are a wonderful accompaniment to ham or pork chops. But there’s one recipe you just can’t make without fresh apricots, and that’s apricot pie. Whenever I can get the fresh fruit, I like to make a French apricot pie, or, as the French would call it, a tarte.
So what makes a pie French? Well, many of you are familiar with French apple pie, which is an open apple pie topped with a crumble consisting of sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and, if you like, chopped nuts. A pie to us is usually a filled pastry topped with pastry, but the French tarte is a pastry base that’s filled and left open. A French fruit pie often has a crumble topping.
In the Middle Ages, tartes were delicacies reserved for the upper crust (no pun intended) of society, while pies filled with meat were considered a lower form of cuisine, suitable for peasant fare. Sweet tartes, made with fruits and custards, were luxuries only the nobles could afford—rich food for the rich.
And what’s the difference between Dutch apple and French apple pie? Not much, except Dutch apple uses brown sugar and French apple uses white. I like to combine the two, so I guess you could call my pie a French-Dutch deal.
The French apricot pie I’ve always made is really easy. I buy the frozen pie crusts in the aluminum pie pans because A) I’m basically lazy when it comes to making pastry and 2) the ready- made crusts actually taste just fine, if you’re not a total pie purist.
Note: I once had a French-Dutch apricot pie in this column, but this is a new recipe.