Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On Pickled Peaches

Still reeling from last week's produce co-op, like many this time of the year, I find myself flipping through cookbooks desperately searching for some great way to salvage almost rotten fruit. Aside from just eating it (how much fruit can a person eat during the day, really), there must be some delicious preparation that will store for a little while, change the taste just enough, and hopefully involve vinegar.

Enter pickled peaches.

Firstly, every time you say that I will be thinking of a brilliant--and oft-misunderstood--show called The Venture Brothers. Think of it as Jonny Quest, except that Jonny grew up and is a failure. Anyways, there is a scene where a guard pretends to have Turrett's Syndrome to escape a social gaffe and bursts into a fit of "Pickled penis! Pickled penis!" Which has absolutely nothing to do with the following recipe other than I will be giggling like a 14-year old until this jar is gone. Which might not take longer than tomorrow night.

First, get yourself some peaches. Pears, nectarines, boy, take your pick of late summer fruits. Peel. Find some way to not make them look like mush when you pull the pits out (I finally started quartering them and use a grapefruit spoon to release the last quarter).
Then consider your spices. I am somehow out of cinnamon and only had a cinnamon stick left. Cleverly, I broke it into pieces to maximize its exposure. Also cleverly, I decided to frugally wrap it in a small piece of cheesecloth so I could float it and retrieve it. Except I was too frugal.
Which wasn't clever at all. I threw away that tiny piece, which made the whole attempt thick and wasteful. But are you new to the site? This is how it goes. I'm like that elf that wanted to be a dentist more than anything. Except let's say after he became a dentist he found out he was a terrible dentist. Yeah. I'm like a fictional elf dentist who, in a fiction version of that fiction, isn't good at his passion. Or articulation.
Scrapping the whole thing I tied up a proper size of cheesecloth.
And Jesus, that's a lot of extra fabric. Also cleverly, I thought, I'll just trim it down. I would recommend you not do this unless you like pulling bits of cotton thread through your teeth. Hmm. Maybe I should scrap this cooking thing and become a dentist!
(Click here for printable recipe.)

Into the pot it goes, held on with your choice of contraptions. For about a pound of prepared fruit, I used 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ginger, ground, and 1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves. Heat until sugar has dissolved, then add the fruit and bring it to a boil. Ladle into a jar and keep in the fridge. You may process using your own magic hereditary canning voodoo but do not look for advice here. I only canned my first batch of pickles today and it was almost too much to handle. (Awesome, but nerve-wracking.)

The smell of this floating through the house will make you forget about the lingering heat of summer and wish for Sunday roasts with gravy and rolls. Maybe I'm just a sucker for cloves, maybe it was only 70 degrees outside this morning (that's a big deal; it's been 109 at midday), maybe I'm just feeling wistful, but it felt like fall was upon us.

To review:
1) Frugal: Check. Used up fruit that I can't possibly eat any more of in its present form before it rots.
2) Easy: No crazy ingredients or methods. Use what you have and what you think will taste good.
3) Longish-term: The vinegar will preserve the fruit in the fridge for at least a week, probably longer. But I'm not planning on it being around long enough to be sure of its shelf-life.
4) Vinegar: Any food item involving vinegar is a win.

Now, do you think it would be weird to mix some of the sweet vinegar syrup with club soda over ice? I must have a disease.

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