I live in a rural area of Massachusetts where it isn’t uncommon for your coworkers to bring you goods from their gardens on a weekly basis. Last week, my friend Lynne gave me two dozen ripe peaches from the trees in her yard. I’ve only ever experienced a peach by biting into it or slicing it over my vanilla yogurt or ice cream. But these juicy peaches, hand-picked straight from her trees with TLC, were too special to just bite into. Plus, two dozen were far too many to eat one at a time before they’d all go bad.
Fortunately, my grandma gives me all of her leftover women’s magazines, like Country Living, Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle, and Cooking Light. I’m always tearing out delicious-looking recipes thinking, “someday when I have cooking skills beyond grilled chicken, and time to messy up my kitchen, I will make all of these recipes.”
Lucky for those little peaches delivered to my desk at work, there was one recipe I had pulled for “Pickled Peaches.” Nobody I asked has ever had a pickled peach, but Chris (my country boyfriend) loves pickles and pickled eggs, so I was excited to try out this recipe. Thus, a pickling/canning/peach recipe experiment commenced after work on the last Friday of August.
If you find yourself with a bag of peaches that are at their peak, I encourage you to flex your taste buds beyond your typical peach recipe and expand your boundaries in the kitchen with some do-it-yourself canning like this!
First things first, the unnecessary but oh-so-worth-it step #1: I got myself positioned for the journey (it’s all about the journey, not the destination) of peeling the skins off the peaches. Hey, it was a beautiful day – and this is the most time consuming step. I later was told if I blanched the peaches for a minute in boiling water, the skins would have peeled right off. But I didn’t mind doing it slowly, by hand, while enjoying my backyard.
The rest is simply following the recipe, which was from Country Living Magazine. I’m a newbie canner (although I did enter pickles into a fair one year) so I had to run out to Walmart to buy a few things, including a canning kit with all the separate pieces.
3 cups of sugar
2 cups distilled white vinegar
12 cinnamon sticks
36 whole cloves
18 soft peaches (about 6 pounds), peeled, halved, and pitted
In a large, nonreactive (stainless steel) stockpot over medium heat, bring 1 cup water, sugar, vinegar, 6 cinnamon sticks, and 18 cloves to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add peaches. Gently simmer, without reaching a boil, until peaches are heated through and a fork pierces the fruit with no resistance, 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, sterilize your canning jars and lids.
Using a slotted spoon, divide peaches among 6 sterilized 1-pint canning jars (I used a variety of sizes just because), placing peaches cavity side down. Add 1 of the remaining cinnamon sticks and 3 of the remaining cloves to each jar. Ladle cooking liquid into jars, filling each to within 1/2 inch of rim. Wipe the lip of each jar rim with a clean, wet cloth to remove any syrup or bits of fruit; then top each jar with a flat lid and screw on a threaded ring band without tightening completely. Roll jars on their sides to release any air bubbles that might be trapped in peach cavities; turn upright. Remove ring bands and lids, and add more cooking liquid, if needed because of settling, to fill jars to within 1/2 inch of rim. Replace lids and threaded ring bands, tightening completely to seal. Store pickled peaches in refrigerator for up to 8 weeks. (My method for releasing air bubbles was tapping the jars on the table, so I did not follow the steps for using the ring bands. Hey, these aren’t being entered into a fair or I would have maybe paid a little more attention to detail.)
They pickled peaches are ready to go! Enjoy them cold or at room temperature if you plan to eat them relatively soon.
In the end, the best part of making pickled peaches, for me, was how pretty the peaches looked in the jars! Feedback from our taste-testers was that the peaches would be great over pork for dinner or paired with a dessert – the flavor is both sweet and sour with the sugar and vinegar. I was able to pass on one of my jars to someone as a birthday gift, which was fun for me! There really is no better gift to give than something that took time, energy, and passion.