Monday, June 15, 2009
The Sweet and Sour Southern Treat: Freestone Pickled Peaches
What isn't better pickled? And why don't more people ask themselves that question?
Kosher dills, bread & butters, sweet gherkins, or cornichons -- the appearance of those jarred delights is a certain sign that summer has arrived. That being said, too many people limit themselves to cucumbers alone. Even the most adventurous pickle mavens end their pursuit in the world of vegetables -- a couple cloves of garlic here, a handful of carrots there.
What they might not realize is that fruits, as well, make delightful candidates for vinegar baths; the sweet and sour result ends up as a delightful addition to both sugary and savory preparations alike.
One of my favorites is the pickled freestone peach, well spiced, more than a bit sour, and addictively delicious. Believe me; you'll wonder how you ever lived without them.
Freestone Pickled Peaches
Makes 1 Quart Jar
8 Medium Freestone Peaches
2 Cups White Vinegar
1 Cup White Sugar (or more to taste)
1 Cup Brown Sugar (or more to taste)
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
5 Whole Cloves
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon (or 1 stick whole cinnamon)
1 Pinch of Kosher Salt
First things first. The peaches must be peeled. Start by slicing across the peach one way...
...and then the other...
...creating an "X".
Drop the peaches into boiling water for 45 seconds, preparing a bowl of ice water to the side. After the 45 seconds, transfer the fruit and let it rest until fully cooled
The "X" that you formed earlier will give you four easy tabs. Peel the fruit by drawing the skin back and discarding it.
It's time to create the pickling brine. Start with two cups of vinegar...
...add in one cup of white sugar...
...and another of brown sugar.
(Editor's Note: I like these peaches pretty tart -- if you want a sweeter pickle, feel free to add in an extra 1/2 cup of both white and brown sugar. If you have a serious sweet tooth (and don't mind lapsing into a diabetic coma), go for an extra cup of each.)
Add in the spices, starting with a half-teaspoon of nutmeg.
Follow this with five cloves...
...and one Tablespoon of cinnamon (or one whole cinnamon stick).
Heat the pickling liquid until it starts to boil, whisking continually to dissolve the sugar. Add in pinch of kosher salt once things get warm. Turn off and allow to cool.
Quarter the peeled peaches and place them into a clean, sterile mason jar.
Pour the pickling liquid up to within one inch of the top of the jar. If you're processing these for long-term storage, follow standard canning procedure. If you're going to eat them within the next two weeks, simply twist on the jar and refrigerate them. They'll be ready to start eating in about 24 hours.
Now, sure, these pickles are quite lovely.
That being said, they do no one any good just sitting in a jar all day. As I said before, these work great in either sweet or savory dishes, as comfortable on pulled pork sandwiches as they are on top of ice cream, one of my favorite uses for them:
All in all, this is an exceptionally versatile condiment, sweet, sour, spicy, and tart -- and all at once, to boot. It's at once both familiar and comforting, classic and unique. Give it a try; I think you'll be delightfully surprised.
Next week, I'll be out and about in California gathering inspiration for the recipes that will appear here in the coming months. We'll have a bit of a non-traditional post next weekend, then return back to our usual format on June 27th.
Music: Peaches & Herb -- "Reunited"