It’s almost October: the leaves are turning, candy corns are crowding the store shelves and pumpkin spiced lattes are all over the Internets. So why am I talking about nectarines? Peaches and nectarines are classically August: shouldn’t I be telling you about the butternut squash risotto I made last week? (Oh, and it was good.) But September is wacky that way: it truly straddles two seasons. You look around the farmer’s market and are spoiled for choice: tomatoes, eggplant and even zucchini snuggle up next to pumpkins, parsnips and leeks; peaches, nectarines and plums are there, numbers dwindling, but holding their own against the first blush of pears and apples. Irene finished peach & nectarine season for a lot of local farmers, but I saw a few stragglers at Saturday’s market, and I’m hoping to find one last batch this Wednesday, at the Danbury Fair market, to pop in the dehydrator.
These little beauties have been sitting in my fridge, macerating for a week now, while I recovered from Preservapalooza Weekend ’11. I finally got them in jars yesterday, and for all the waiting, the final preserve came together quickly & easily. Tai pronounced the flavor “outstanding” over ice cream: I think it will only continue to mellow & blend while sitting on the shelf. And while I envision a glorious, we’re-so-sick-of-apples middle of winter nectarine pie, I can think of some lovely savory uses as well, over pork or chicken, in an Asian-flavored stir fry or an Indian curry. (I should really make another batch!)
Typically, a 9-inch pie will take about a quart of filling, but I like to can pie filling in pint jars: it gives me more flexibility, should I just want to make a small tart for the two of us, or use it in a crumble or over sponge cake. I also find that I have fewer problems with siphoning in the smaller jars: pie filling is thick & viscous and will expand in the canner. Make sure that you are leaving a generous 1 inch of headspace for a successful seal. While the inspiration recipe was not designed for canning, nectarines are safely acidic, and with the addition of lemon juice, I’m confident that the relatively small amount of ginger in the recipe is well within the safe limits of acidity: but of course, you should always trust your own judgement.
Think about rounding up some of the last of the season’s nectarines this week: I do believe that this one is a winner.
Inspired by Crustless Peach-Ginger Pie in The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
- 4 and 1/4 lbs nectarines (about 2 quarts)
- 1 cup sugar + 2 tbsp sugar, divided (organic evaporated cane juice)
- zest & juice of 1 lemon
- 5 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 2 cinnamon sticks (4 inches each)
- 2 tbsp ClearJel or other canning-safe food starch
- In a large bowl, combine 1 cup sugar, cinnamon sticks, lemon zest & juice, and minced ginger. Toss to mix. Peel, pit and slice nectarines into 1/4-inch slices (about 16 slices per medium nectarine). Add to bowl, tossing with sugar/lemon mixture as you go, to prevent browning. Make sure fruit and cinnamon sticks are buried beneath juices (to prevent browning), then allow to macerate at room temperature for at least 2 hours, or refrigerated overnight (or several nights, if need be).
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Strain nectarine juice into a large, heavy-bottomed preserving pot. Retrieve cinnamon sticks and add to the juice: set fruit aside. Bring juices to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and boil gently for about 5 minutes, until juice is slightly thickened. Remove and discard cinnamon sticks.
- In a small bowl, mix together ClearJel and 2 tbsp sugar: whisk into boiling juice, stirring constantly until ClearJel disappears and juice thickens, about 1 – 2 minutes. Add reserved fruit. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Ladle hot pie filling into hot jars, leaving a full 1-inch of headspace. Bubble jars carefully, adjust headspace, wipe rims, affix lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Yields just under 5 pints.
- You can omit the ClearJel and simply add cornstarch at the time of baking the pie; however, I feel that starch incorporates better into syrup alone while it is hot, so in this case, ClearJel works well. Do not use cornstarch in canning, as it cannot be reheated.
- This pie filling is ready to bake: simply empty jar into a pie shell and bake at 375 degrees F until bubbling thickly. For a tart, pre-bake the tart shell, cover the edges, then add the fruit and bake until bubbling. Two pints perfectly fills an 11-inch tart pan.
- After one year of shelf storage, the bright color of the canned pie filling had faded considerably, likely due to the low amount of sugar. Store protected from light, and consider adding more sugar if protecting the color is important to you (I think the that flavor of the preserve is perfect with this amount of sugar, however). The baked tart pictured below used jars that sat on the shelf for one year.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.