Apricot Float in a Hometown Parade

Saratoga Hometown Parade, celebrating 60th anniversary as a city.
Saratoga’s 60th

Saratoga, the beautiful village nestled in the gentle hills that rise from the Santa Clara Valley to meet the Santa Cruz mountains, enjoyed more than a century of pioneer adventurism and family farming before it got around to the business of incorporating as a city in 1956.

While the Anza exploring party passed through this area in 1776, it wasn’t until the 1840s that pioneers arrived to harvest timber in the mountains and began to settle. Quarrying, tanning, and mills for grain and lumber products were early enterprises that took advantage of the area’s abundant natural resources. These newcomers experimented with several names for this place — Toll Gate, McCartysville, and Bank Mills — before choosing Saratoga.

 

Congress Springs Resort
Congress Springs Resort, c. 1876

Not long after Saratoga’s village took shape, the hot spring waters in the mountains inspired creation of the Congress Springs Resort. Established in the 1860s, the resort quickly became a popular attraction. In the early 1900s, the establishment of the Peninsular Interurban rail line to Saratoga brought residents from as far as San Francisco seeking its healing waters, natural beauty, and relaxation.

 

Russell Brand label
Saratoga’s Famous French Prunes

The early pioneer era was followed by the growth of Saratoga’s most important heritage, orchard farming, and the birth of the fruit industry throughout the Santa Clara Valley. In 1900, after a disastrous drought ended, a local citizen (Rev. Edwin Sidney “Everlasting Sunshine” Williams) created the Saratoga Blossom Festival, which in a short time gained national recognition and was celebrated each year until WWII.

 

Saratoga's Orchards, 1909 postcard
Saratoga’s Village and Orchards, 1909 postcard

As Kathleen Norris, author and Saratoga resident wrote,

Saratoga every March glorifies the high-tide of fruit blossoms that washes over her like a snowy foam. Every year the little town goes mad with the joy of spring, the perfume and sunshine and birds, and every year all the neighboring towns pour in to join the festival“.

 

Saratoga, CA History Museum
Saratoga History Museum

Some of this history lives on in the memory of those lucky enough to have grown up here, when the orchards were an integral part of the community, and is well documented at the Saratoga Historical Foundation Museum. In a few scattered locations, the orchard traditions continue today in Santa Clara and San Benito counties, including at Novakovich Orchards on Fruitvale Avenue in Saratoga, and at City-owned Heritage Orchards in Saratoga, Sunnyvale, Los Altos and San Jose.

Fruit boxes at Novakovich Orchards
Fruit boxes at Novakovich Orchards

When the Saratoga IOOF lodge received word that the City of Saratoga planned to celebrate its 60th anniversary with a parade, they embraced the idea of creating a float that evoked the City’s orchard heritage. I hopped on board the planning committee, and the first stop was to ask our friends the Novakovich’s if we could borrow a flatbed trailer and some decorative elements from their orchard property. They were more than generous with fruit boxes, buckets and our choice from among several trailers.

A phone call to Garrod Farms secured as many hay bales as needed for the trailer and a trip to a local nursery to source fruit trees was just in time to purchase three trees still in leaf — a peach, plum and apricot. Next, a visit to the Saratoga Historical Foundation Museum and a conversation with Annette Stransky, President, resulted in photographs of several historic posters. These photos, printed onto large banners, expressed the theme of the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” and Saratoga’s role in that era beautifully. All told, planning and execution took a few weeks, lots of volunteer hands, and the IOOF committee was very proud of the result!

 

Valley of Heart's Delight float
Valley of Heart’s Delight Float

This was a first for me, to help plan, build, and sit on a float in my hometown parade! It was a lot of fun and everyone along the route seemed to enjoy the experience too. Afterward, I was invited to join Robin Chapman, author of California Apricots: Lost Orchards of the Silicon Valley, and another author of local history books at the Saratoga History Museum to talk about our books (and books-to-be), while local musicians played and Saratoga IOOF members provided free food and drinks.

 

Apricot Girls
Apricot Ladies: Robin Chapman and Lisa Newman

I enjoyed the opportunity to talk about apricots, recipes, the history of the Santa Clara Valley, and the art of publishing with Robin, who has several titles under her belt and is working on a new historical memoir. The Saratoga 60th Anniversary Parade gave me another opportunity to connect with old friends and memories in a new way that deepens my appreciation for the natural beauty of the area and the unparalleled quality of it’s fruit orchards.

 

Blenheim Apricot cut halves
Blenheim Apricot cut halves

Recently, my husband and I were invited to a combined Bar and Bat Mitzvah of a close friend’s son and his 93-year-old mother, whom I have known and admired for over 30 years. Her story of missing the opportunity to have her own Bat Mitzvah in 1930’s Germany due to the rising winds of war was so poignant, and her inspiration to share this celebration with her grandson so beautiful, that I knew a special treat was in order. The old world taste of a Linzer Torte with my own Apricot jam as the filling (which I know she loves) seemed like the right touch, and I was so gratified by the delight it brought to the family and their close friends!

 

Apricot Linzer Torte
Apricot Linzer Torte


Linzer Torte with Apricot Jam Filling

The Linzer Torte originated in Vienna in the 1700’s, and its rich, tender marriage of almonds with a piquant fruit filling (traditionally Raspberry jam) is extraordinary! Making a Linzer Torte takes some extra care due to the tenderness of the dough, but the result is so delicious, it’s worth a little patience and practice. Expect the dough to crack or tear while forming it in the tart pan and lattice. If it gets too soft to handle, chill it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes and continue working.


Yield: Serving Size: 8-10 Prep Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

For the Pastry:

  • 2 cups whole almonds, toasted and cooled

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla

  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon

  • 1 1/2 cubes cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Torte:

  • 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom

  • 1 1/2 cups homemade apricot jam, or best quality store-bought jam

  • 1/2 cups sliced almonds

  • Egg wash: whisk 1 egg white with 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

To Make the Pastry:

  1. Place the toasted almonds and sugar in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground.

  2. Mix together the flour, salt, cinnamon and cloves in a medium bowl and add to the nuts, pulse until they are combined.

  3. Whisk the egg yolks lightly with the vanilla and lemon zest in a small bowl.

  4. Add the egg mixture to the food processor along with the cold butter pieces and pulse until the dough comes together, about 1 minute.

  5. Roll out 1/3 of the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap (or wax paper) to measure a 10-inch circle. Slide the paper onto a round baking sheet and refrigerate until firm (about 20 minutes or overnight).

  6. With the remaining dough, follow the same procedure, rolling the dough into a larger, 12-inch round, between sheets of plastic wrap, and transfer to another round baking sheet and refrigerate until firm (about 20 minutes or overnight).

To Make the Torte:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F with rack in the middle

  2. Remove the larger dough disk from the refrigerator, peel off the top layer of plastic wrap and place the removable bottom of the tart pan on top, then invert the round into the tart pan (don’t worry if the pastry cracks while doing this, you can patch it back together with your fingers). Gently press the dough against the sides of the tart rim evenly. The sides will be thick. Smooth over any cracks and if necessary, cut along the top rim of the tart so the dough is even.

  3. Bake the pastry until light brown, about 15 minutes and cool completely on a rack.

  4. Spread the apricot jam evenly over the bottom of the tart.

  5. Remove the smaller disk of dough from the refrigerator. Peel off the top layer of plastic wrap and cut 1-inch strips. Place half of the strips at even intervals across the jam-filled torte, about 1-inch apart, lifting them with a spatula, gently pressing and trimming the ends to fit. Then place the other half of the strips on the diagonal to form a lattice pattern. Gently press the edges to seal.

  6. Scatter the sliced almonds around the outer edge of the torte decoratively and gently brush the lattice with the egg wash.

  7. Bake the torte until the top is browned, about 30 minutes and cool before serving. Leftovers keep well for a few days, covered.

 


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6 comments on “Apricot Float in a Hometown Parade”:

  1. I’m glad I found this site , love your history and info . Since grade school our country school cook was a Hungarian, and my favorite on the menu was apricot pie I the big baking pans. Looking forward to 2017 in Saratoga, plus your cook book👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻.

  2. Lisa, I look forward to each one of your posts! They are so interesting and informative. Looking forward to more blogs and to your cookbook!

  3. Amazing wealth of history here, I loved seeing the float and learning more about Saratoga’s Blossom Festival! Would be great to connect local indigenous peoples’ history and hear how the native community interfaced with the pioneers and their bountiful orchards. Keep up the great work! 🙂

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