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Summer Food: Melons, Fresh Pesto, Apricot Jam

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Summer Food: Melons, Fresh Pesto, Apricot Jam

Summer Food: Melons, Fresh Pesto, Apricot Jam

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Last month, we asked you to tell us stories about what foods mean summer to you. And tell us stories you did. Peter Stoll of East Chatham, New York recalled melon-hunting during summer camp. He remembered those expeditions ending with ripe, icy-cold honeydews and cantaloupes dripping with juice.

Several of you mentioned pesto, including Don Beyer of Marshfield, Wisconsin. He follows his mother's recipe, using basil and Italian parsley from his own garden, plus garlic, pine nuts, black pepper, salt and parmesan cheese. All that mixed with the best olive oil he can afford. And since it freezes well, he gets to defrost a bit of summer, even during the coldest Wisconsin winter.

Joanne Slotnik's favorite summer food involves a beautiful setting and a lot of work.

JOANNE SLOTNIK: It all begins in the pioneer orchards of Fruita, Utah, tucked into a green valley surrounded by the soaring red cliffs of Capitol Reef, one of Utah's least visited but most spectacular national parks. There, every July, the National Park Service Rangers open the orchards, provide ladders and bags and invite the public to pick fruit for a nominal fee.

Every July, my family and friends make the pilgrimage there, driving me directly into apricot jam hell. Once we start picking, it's hard to stop. Inevitably, we pick too much. This year, I had to start the car and begin driving away to lure people out of the trees. We realized as we do each year that we've done it again way too many apricots for any sensible person to process.

Back at our vacation retreat, we fill every available container with apricots and admire their perfect blush. We wash, pit and halve the apricots. We add less sugar and more lemon and lemon zest than any recipe ever calls for. We boil, we skim, we stir, we jar and lid, we steam-can. We'd line up the finished product in neat little rows and admire our golden handiwork. And then, we do it again, and again.

NORRIS: That was Joanne Slotnik describing her favorite summer food memory and she joins us now.

If you had to describe the taste of this apricot jam, slathered over a lovely biscuit or maybe a warm piece of toast.

SLOTNIK: Well, it's quite tart and it's just a fabulous combination of apricot and lemon. It's unlike any store-bought jam you could lay your hands on. It's ambrosia.

NORRIS: Joanne, do you ship?

SLOTNIK: There's one jar that should have arrived by 10 o'clock your time, but I'm told it's late.

NORRIS: How many jars do you put up every year?

SLOTNIK: Probably - maybe 30 or 40 this year. I got a little carried away and I got into barbecue sauces so that was a few more. I mean, it's not really...

NORRIS: Apricot barbecue sauce?

SLOTNIK: Fabulous.

NORRIS: It sounds good.

SLOTNIK: Fabulous. Two different kinds - one kind of mustardy and then one sort of a more traditional, you know, kind of a catsupy-based thing but with that apricot back flavor.

NORRIS: Well, Joanne, this sounds like a wonderful tradition. I'm so glad that you were able to share it with our listeners.

SLOTNIK: Well, thank you. It's been a delight, Michele.

NORRIS: All the best to you.

SLOTNIK: Enjoy your jam.

NORRIS: Before I let you go, do you have a suggestion for how best to enjoy it?

SLOTNIK: I would just take a spoon and go for it.

NORRIS: That was Joanne Slotnik of Salt Lake City, Utah talking about her apricot jam. You can find out how she makes it and see pictures from her apricot hunt at our Web site, npr.org. And while you're there, please share your own summer food story.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

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