This is from my new favorite gorgeous cooking blog, Rachel Eats. I only made a third of the recipe because 65 apricots just seemed a little much, but I already ate half the jar and I wish I had more, especially if the fruit really is semi-preserved and keeps for weeks.
I also think this would work with other stone fruits... poached peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries... mm.
Fills 2 1.5 litre or preserving jars.
6 cups /1.5 litres filtered water (filtered? I used tap water)
2 generous cups /450g caster sugar (I used regular... I am not even sure what caster sugar is; possibly something that only exists if you are awesome and live in Rome)
2 sticks of cinnamon
12 black peppercorns
15 thick strips of unwaxed lemon rind (you will need 2 or 3 lemons) (I actually thought this was a bit overpowering and will probably reduce it next time)
65 ripe but firm apricots
Wash and then cut the apricots in two and remove the stone.
Scrape seeds from vanilla bean with tip of a sharp knife into large heavy based saucepan and add pod, water, sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns.
Very gently bring the contents of the pan to the boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Now you are going to cook the apricots in two or three batches depending on the size of your pan. Add the first batch of the apricot halves and simmer, stirring once or twice, until tender, 2 to 6 minutes (depending on ripeness). [Gwen's note: I still did this in two batches, since the 2c water I'd boiled only covered about half the apricots. I don't know much about the science of poaching, but it seemed like they all should be covered fairly evenly.]
Using a slotted spoon lift the apricots out of the syrup and into very clean preserving jars. Put the next batch in the syrup, poach and lift into the jars, Repeat, if necessary with the third batch.
Then scoop out the lemon, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon and divide them between the jars. Now bring the syrup to a fast rolling boil and leave it rolling energetically until the syrup has reduced by about a third. Divide the syrup between the jars.
Keep the jars for a few days in the fridge before serving the apricots cold or a room temperature with a dollop of crème fraîche, fresh unsalted cream cheese (homemade or Isigny) mascarpone or thick greek yogurt.