Just like I get the strong urge to braise everything in the winter, I find myself wanting to preserve everything I encounter during the summer. After enjoying many a peach (and I must confess, I think I prefer Carolina peaches over Georgia peaches…), I vaguely recalled a recipe for peach preserves I had encountered and knew I had to make some for myself while I could still find some amazing local peaches.
My first inclination when it comes to preserves is always jelly or jam, so I thought I’d try to not do that, instead opting for larger chunks of fruit and a looser syrup. Also, while the best preserves tend to be simple (e.g. just fruit + sugar), some pairings are a match made in heaven, and peach + cardamom is such a match. They both offer such a distinct sweet flavor and richly complex perfume…its really something. Its taking me some restraint not to open a jar of this already, but I know I’ll be glad I did a bit further down the line. Til then, I’ll just gorge myself on fresh peaches.
- 4 pounds peaches
- 5 cups sugar
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice (at least 4 lemons)
- 1 Tbsp green cardamon pods
Begin by peeling and stoning the peaches. This is a quick and easy process with a pot of boiling water. Make a shallow cut through the skin of the peach along the butt crack (you know just the part I mean) and another perpendicular right through that slit (so you have an ‘x’). Place a peach in the boiling water for about 30 seconds, rolling it around periodically before transferring to a bowl of ice water to stop any cooking. You should now have no difficulty peeling the skin off of the peach. Do this for all of your peaches and then slice into wedges roughly 1/2 an inch thick. Discard the stones and then cut your wedges in half.
Transfer the peach chunks to a large bowl along with the sugar and lemon juice. Stir this well and let the mixture sit over night (don’t refrigerate, but do put some plastic wrap or something on top of your bowl). Stop by the bowl and give it a good stir three times or so to help dissolve the sugar into the peach juice (and to plump the peaches up a bit).
Smash the cardamom pods coarsely and wrap them in cheese cloth (you can put them in naked, but its a nuisance to fish them out later). Heat the peach mixture in a large pot over medium-high heat for roughly 25 minutes, simmering and skimming off any white foam that collects on the surface. The peaches should become quite tender and the juice should thicken to be more syruppy. Finally, turn off the heat and let this mixture sit for several hours more to further plump the peaches.
Finally, reheat the mixture over medium-high heat and verify you have reached jelly-like thickness (take a small scoop in a spoon and let it rest in the freezer for a few minutes. It should come out with a jelly-like texture). Remove the cardamom pods and following good, safe canning protocols, get your jars ready. Transfer the peach mixture to the jar (leaving ~1/4 inch headroom) and process in boiling water for another 10-20 minutes (depending on the size of your jar) before you put this on your pantry shelf. As always, once you open the jar, keep it in the fridge from then on.