Little known fact – our family has married into royalty – strange but true. In the small grotto of Hollister, CA, our cousin, Patti Knoblich, married the ‘Cot King (Gary Gonzales) and has summarily been crowned the ‘Cot Queen! If we are so proud of our nobility, you are probably scratching your head and wondering, “What is a ‘Cot?” for crying out loud.
If you grew up in an agricultural area of Northern California before the 70’s, you knew that a ‘cot was an Apricot! Yes, before Silicon Valley became the computer capitol it is today, it was the capitol of ‘cots. In the 1920’s and 30’s, over 2,737 apricot growers farmed over 18,631 acres, one family being Frank and Mary Gonzales, parents to Gary, who was bequeathed the Gary, King of ‘Cots, and is now our cousin Patti’s husband; i.e. family royalty.
Our family has been intertwined with ‘cots for generations now. Our dad Wayne, and his brother Ken Calhoun used to “cut” cots for their father’s cousin that had orchards in the Niles District (now Fremont), when they were as young as 7 years old (no child labor laws back then, kept them out of trouble!), being paid 7 – 10 cents per box. They “cut” the apricots in half, removed the seeds, and would lay them on flats to dry. Our mother Tilli and her friend Nancy Henry Lyons used to pick and cut ‘cots in Turlock when they were in high school in the 40’s, for 10 cents a box (and the boxes were big, no complaining about minimum wage okay).
With H.P., Cisco, Apple, 3Com and Adobe moving into town and cementing the fields, most growers have moved East to the San Joaquin Valley where apricots are predominately found today. We Californian’s are proud to be the producers of over 95% of all apricots grown in the United States!
There are songs written about apricots, Apricot Stone, an Apricots Restaurant you can dine in, an Apricot Hotel you can stay in (if you are traveling to Istanbul?!), and even a celebration in honor of the mighty apricot, the Apricot Fiesta in the town of Patterson!
So in the middle of winter when you are longing for those juicy summer stone fruits, choose a dried apricot, they’re good for you! Here’s one of the Gonzales Family recipes, give it a try, or visit their website www.apricotking.com for more apricot ideas, or purchase apricot products, a couple of my favorites are Apricot Puddles and Apricot Pepper Syrup.
Mom’s Favorite Apricot Squares
- 12 oz. (2 heaping cups) dried Blenheim apricots
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water (about 12 oz.)
Place the apricots in a large saucepan and add water. It should cover the apricots by about an inch. If it doesn’t add or remove water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes or until apricots are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Drain and save any remaining liquid.
Combine the reserved apricot liquid with the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in chopped apricots and set the mixture aside to cool.
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 cups flour
- chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)
In a medium sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Mix in the flour and add nuts. The mixture will be crumbly.
Set aside about 1 1/2 cups of the crust mixture. Pat the remaining mixture into an ungreased 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake the crust in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.
Remove crust from oven and spread apricot mixture evenly over it. Sprinkle with reserved crust mixture and more nuts. Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the squares begin to turn a light, golden brown.
Remove from oven and place the pan on a rack to cool. Cut into 2″ squares.
Nancy, Cousin to the Queen of ‘Cots