Now is the season for New Zealand-grown stone fruit. Take advantage of this delicious fruit because tree-ripened, just-picked is best. Stone fruit can be cold-stored for quite some time but they will never ripen properly. Buy fruit that looks unblemished or bruised and is just yielding to the touch. If they are still a bit firm, ripen them on a sunny, warm windowsill.
Depending on what you want to do with them, check whether they are "free" or "cling-stone". A free-stone fruit will enable you to cut the fruit from around the stone. Give it a sharp twist and separate the two halves. With cling-stone fruit you will need to cut around the stone and to achieve two perfect halves is almost impossible.
To skin stone fruit, set a generous pot of water on the boil, make a little cross-cut in the base of the fruit, then plunge them into the boiling water.
Keep an eye on this as it will only take a few minutes for the skin to start to separate from the flesh. At this point, remove the fruit from the boiling water and plunge them into cold water. Gently peel the skin away.
My friend, caterer Matt Wilkinson, gave me this peach chutney recipe. It's an adaption of a Digby Law recipe and although it is for peaches I think it would work as well with apricots. It's superb with cheese and crackers.
Makes about 3.5 litres of chutney
• 1.5 kg peeled, ripe peaches, with stones removed
• 3½ cups malt vinegar
• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 100g preserved crystallised ginger, chopped
• 500g fresh dates
• 500g raisins or sultanas
• 1kg soft brown sugar
• 2 tsp cayenne pepper
• 2 tbsp salt
1. Chop peaches fairly finely. Boil them in the vinegar with the garlic until the peaches are soft.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and boil for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon into hot, clean jars and seal.