Monday, April 17, 2017
Trader Joe's California Slab Apricots Blenheim Variety
I believe this is a new product for Trader Joe's, though I didn't find it on the new-products shelf. I think I would have noticed it before now if it had been around for long.
It took me a while to convince myself that this actually is a different product from an extremely similar one that I buy regularly--one of my Top Ten items--Blenheim Variety Extra Choice/Choice Apricots. Both packages are dried apricots, same weight, same variety, same price, both grown in California. They look alike.
I had never heard of "slab apricots," but later found this explanation: "All the old-timers know that slabs are the extra-ripe, fullest-of-sweetness kind of dried apricot. Usually hand-cut and when placed on a tray to dry, they lose their shape and "slab" out on the tray. Often compared to fruit leather, slabs are the sweetest, most intense flavor of our dried Blenheim apricot."
So, are these indeed the sweetest dried apricots, with the most intense flavor? No--at least not more than the others. I bought a bag of each, opened both, and alternated samples from the two bags. I could not tell any difference in size, shape, color, texture, flavor, or sweetness, even after repeating the experiment for five nights in a row. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose which bag carried which label, I'd still be reduced to a pure 50/50 guess.
Will I buy it again?
Sure. The other kind is one of the rare TJ's items that is both a Top Ten and a staple in my kitchen. Since these are functionally identical, they merit the same status. I'll choose randomly between them for future purchases.
Bonus personal story
In 2014, I was one of six members of my family to go on a two-week guided tour of the British Isles. I brought along a bunch of snacks to eat on the motor coach between stops, including some of TJ's Blenheim variety dried apricots.
Shortly after we left Oxford, heading for Stratford Upon Avon, I started seeing signs for "Blenheim Palace" ahead. I recognized the name because I had wondered what "Blenheim" on the apricot package referred to, but had never bothered to look it up. Well, it turns out that Blenheim Palace is where Winston Churchill was born and raised, and this variety of apricot is named for that palace because they thrived on the grounds there.
So I had accidentally taken some Blenheim apricots back to the very place for which they were named!