Pickle fruit to preserve taste of summer

By Patricia West-Barker
For The Taos News
Posted 7/3/19

Stone fruits are coming into season in Northern New Mexico -- and the spring rains should deliver abundant summer crops of apricots, peaches, nectarines and …

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Pickle fruit to preserve taste of summer

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Stone fruits are coming into season in Northern New Mexico -- and the spring rains should deliver abundant summer crops of apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums. Eat as much as you can out of hand, make jam or pies and you're still likely to have more fruit than you can handle.

What else can you do with this delicious deluge? Pickle it!

An old-fashioned way to preserve the taste of summer, pickled fruit -- especially peaches -- is particularly popular in the southern United States, where it is a star of the holiday table. Recipes for pickled peaches appear in historic cookbooks as far back as the 17th century. In times past, the fruit was usually spiced with cloves, cinnamon, mace, ginger, nutmeg and mustard seed. Contemporary variations include vanilla beans, lemon juice, allspice, bird chiles, habaneros, bay leaves and black peppercorns in the syrup.

Because they are both sweet and sour, pickled peaches play well with savory dishes as well as desserts. You can spoon them over vanilla ice cream or yogurt or add them to a pie or cobbler. But my favorite way to serve them is alongside meats -- baked ham, fried chicken, roast duck or pork, and that Thanksgiving turkey all perk up when there is a pickled peach or two at their side.

You can find many recipes for pickled peaches on the internet. This one comes from Joyce Goldstein, whose 25 cookbooks are known for their carefully tested recipes. It's basic enough that you experiment with additional spices if you like.

Note that we have not included instructions for processing the jars of peaches. You can find step-by-step canning instructions at aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E319/. Or you can skip the processing and store the sealed jars in the refrigerator, where they will keep, unopened, for at least six months.

Pickled Peaches

(Makes 3 or 4 quart jars)

12 small, firm, ripe peaches

1½ cups apple cider vinegar

1½ cups water

3 cups granulated sugar

3 or 4 cinnamon sticks

10 to 12 whole cloves

3 or 4 strips lemon zest

Optional: 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, slightly bruised

Sterilize four large-mouth quart-size canning jars and their lids by boiling them in a large pot of water for 15 minutes. Let them sit in the hot water while you prepare the peaches.

Bring another large pot of water to a boil and prepare a bowl of ice water. Peel the peaches by dipping them in the boiling water for a minute or two and then dunking them in the ice water. If the peels do not slip off, remove them with a peeler or a paring knife. Ideally, you can leave the peaches whole; if they are too large to fit through the mouth of a jar, cut them in half. Smaller slices will cook down and become mushy.

Combine the vinegar, 1½ cups water, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, lemon zest and peppercorns in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Decrease the heat to low and simmer the syrup for 10 minutes.

Poach 3 or 4 peaches at a time in the syrup for 2 minutes, using a slotted spoon to transfer the peaches to the jars. Pour the hot syrup over peaches, leaving a 1-inch headspace. Distribute the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and lemon peels among the jars. Wipe the rims clean and tighten the lids on the mouths of the jars.

Let the peaches rest in the syrup for a least a week -- preferably a month -- before using.

Recipe adapted from "Jam Session: A Fruit Preserving Handbook" by Joyce Goldstein (Ten Speed Press, 2018).

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