By JJ Gonson, Cuisine en Locale Though usually thought of as one of summertime’s sweetest treats, peaches can easily go savory. Spend any time near a healthy, productive peach tree, and you’ll understand why pickling peaches can be essential to preserving the fruit through the year: one can only eat so many pies! Pickle some peaches this summer and take part in the southern Italian tradition of serving pickled peaches with your Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. The staff at Cuisine en Locale loves having peaches year-round, so we are always sure to get together and pickle a bunch of peaches during the height of their season. The flavor combinations are endless, so experiment with your favorite herbs and spices.
Peaches Apple cider vinegar Maple sugar Suggested flavors: vanilla pod, star anise, cinnamon stick, or savory options such as mustard seeds, cloves, or garlic
A proper pickle In pickles, it’s the acid in the liquid that kills bacteria, so as a general rule of thumb, you want a 50% acid to water solution. If you are so inclined to test the pH, the liquid’s pH should be 4.6 or less. In our pickled peaches, we use 50% apple cider vinegar and 50% peach juice caught from peeling the fruit.
Choose the right fruit Clingstone or freestone peaches both work for this recipe. Clingstones are tastier, but they require a bit more work to process. Choose ripe, but firm peaches. Remember that peaches bruise like… a peach, so be careful when handling the fruit. Bruised peaches don’t look pretty in jars, and bruising actually gives the fruit a slightly bad taste.
Sterilization for storage Sterilize your jars per standard sterilization instructions*. If you plan to hold the jars unrefrigerated, follow standard canning instructions, making sure to boil the filled jars for 20 minutes.
Prepping peaches Gently wash the peaches and cut a very shallow X in the end of the fruit opposite the stem.
Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil. Plunge the peaches into the water for about 2 minutes, or until you see the skin around the X begin to peel back.
Remove peaches from water and put them in an ice bath or run cold water over the fruit to stop the cooking.
Peel the peaches over a strainer to make sure you catch all the juice. This juice will become the non-acidic portion of your pickling liquid.
Slice the fruit into moon shaped wedges.
The pickle Combine peach juice with apple cider vinegar in a 1:1 ratio. Make sure that no more than half the total volume is peach juice to ensure proper acidity. For every cup of liquid, add one tablespoon of maple sugar and any flavoring agents you’d like.
Bring liquid to a boil. After two minutes of cooking at a rapid boil, add the peaches.
Pack peaches and liquid into the sterilized jars and follow standard canning instructions.
Store for 1 month before using.
*Sterilization of Empty Jars, per National Center for Home Food Preservation All jams, jellies, and pickled products processed less than 10 minutes should be filled into sterile empty jars. To sterilize empty jars, put them right side up on the rack in a boiling-water canner. Fill the canner and jars with hot (not boiling) water to 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Boil 10 minutes at altitudes of less than 1,000 ft. At higher elevations, boil 1 additional minute for each additional 1,000 ft. elevation. Remove and drain hot sterilized jars one at a time. Save the hot water for processing filled jars. Fill jars with food, add lids, and tighten screw bands.
Empty jars used for vegetables, meats, and fruits to be processed in a pressure canner need not be pre-sterilized. It is also unnecessary to pre-sterilize jars for fruits, tomatoes, and pickled or fermented foods that will be processed 10 minutes or longer in a boiling-water canner.