Last updated on November 18th, 2016
It’s pretty much impossible to one-up the perfection of a fresh peach. And I’m not going to even attempt to persuade you that a pickled peach could beat one plucked straight from the tree for simplicity and unadulterated peach flavor. But when you’re awash in the fuzzy fruits all summer, why not play around?
Pickling peaches gives near-instant gratification—unlike many refrigerator pickle recipes, these are good to go as soon as they’re cool enough to handle and eat. It’s surprising how a quick dunk in the aromatic liquid can permeate the peaches so spectacularly. This method can also salvage a less-than-perfect specimen, though a harder, not-so-ripe peach still won’t be as juicy and tender when pickled as a peach at its pinnacle will be.
If you don’t have all the spices called for in the following recipe in your pantry, I implore you to take the time to find them, because their warm flavors really come through in the fruit after poaching. The contrast between the peach’s sunny sweetness and the tart wine-tinged brine is a beautiful, and unexpected, way to savor the fruits of summer.
How to use your pickled peaches? Oh, I can think of a few ways to serve them:
- with a scoop of lemon ice cream
- pureed and doused with Champagne for a tart take on the Bellini, or just sliced and dropped into a sweeter Riesling or Chenin Blanc
- chopped as a salsa atop a pork tenderloin or roasted salmon fillet
- drizzled with honey or maple syrup over yogurt, cottage cheese, or ricotta
- sliced as accompaniment to charcuterie and cheese
- tossed in the usual feta-watermelon salad, or with greens, walnuts, and brie
Or do as I’ve done in the photo above and serve on sweet whole wheat crackers with a smear of goat cheese.
adapted from Chez Panisse Fruit
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Makes 2 quart-size jars
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup red wine (no need to get fancy here; just use a bottle you already have open or were planning to drink with dinner anyway)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 8 whole cloves
- 4 allspice berries
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 6 medium peaches, peeled and halved
Combine all ingredients except the peaches in a wide, heavy-bottomed pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Remove the lid, simmer for 5 minutes, and add the peaches, making sure they are covered by the liquid. (You might have to flip them halfway through.)
Cook until tender, about five minutes, checking with a paring knife to make sure they are soft the whole way through. Remove the peaches with a spoon or ladle and fill a two-quart canning jar or other large heat-proof jar that seals well. (You won’t be water-bathing them, so it’s ok if it’s not a real canning jar.)
Let the liquid cool slightly and then ladle over the peaches until the jar is full. Close, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate. The peaches will keep for a week or two in the fridge but will eventually start to look feathery and disintegrate, so eat up!