I know it’s Tuesday morning and all, but I need you to do something for me: run, don’t walk, to your nearest peach orchard or farm stand, grab a bag of peaches (before they disappear), and make this preserve. This, my friends, could very well be the perfect peach preserve: sweet yet tangy, beautiful texture of plump slices of fruit in a just-barely-set jam, just the right floral note from the forsythia and the sweet heat finish of fiery pequin peppers only serves to accentuate the bursting-with-summer flavor of the peaches. Truly, it is happiness in a jar. Wait – what do you mean you don’t have any forsythia syrup? You didn’t make it back in April when I told you to? No? And you say you don’t have pequin chiles either? (Who are you people??). Please tell me that you made some apple pectin, either last Fall or this July – yes? No? Sigh.
So you see my dilemma: I may well have just discovered the most perfect peach preserve ever and no one will ever make it. Because (despite all appearances to the contrary) I am not crazy: I know that I am probably most likely almost certainly the only person on the planet with forsythia syrup tucked away in the fridge. I may also be the only person who, in the summer of ’08, bought dozens upon dozens of tiny, fiery red chile peppers from her farm stand (not quite sure of which pepper they actually were, but now, several Google-hours later, thinks that they are pequins), dried them in the dehydrator, and buried them in the pantry for eventual use in the Most Perfect Peach Preserve Ever. Trust me, my friends, you are not the only one who rolls your eyes at a 3-day jam recipe in which half the ingredients are unobtainable, unpronounceable or simply ridiculous. There are times when I feel like the Momofuku of jam (not just cereal milk; only milk steeped for 2.73 minutes in Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries LOT AO78560001 will do).
At times like these, it helps me to step back and remember why I started this blog in the first place: it wasn’t to convince people to make my recipes. It wasn’t to force/guilt/cajole people into eating the way I do (I just had lasagna for breakfast: Kaela, Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Culinary Role Model). It certainly wasn’t to celebrate my kitchen brilliance. It was, first and foremost, a kitchen notebook: a personal memoir of recipes tried, mistakes made, ingredients sourced, dinners enjoyed. Secondly, and I’m finding, as importantly, it is for inspiration: for me, and hopefully for others as well. What did I do with peaches last year? Does that inspire me to do the same, or something different, with peaches this year? Thirdly, and surprisingly, to me, is the opportunity to connect and share: what does your perfect peach preserve look like? Maybe it would have lemongrass or lavender instead of forsythia; cardamom or allspice in place of chilé. I think there is one thing that we can all agree upon: there are few things as wonderful as a fresh peach in the height of summer, and however you chose to preserve that peach, it will be more delicious than 99% of what you can buy in any store. So: inspired by this recipe and the contents of your pantry, what does your perfect peach preserve look like? I would love to hear, and be inspired in turn.
Inspired by the Ferber method in Mes Confitures, but the ingredients are all me (of course. Who else?).
- 3 lbs peaches (about 2 and 3/4 lbs net)
- 1 and 1/2 cups sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- 1 cup Forsythia syrup
- 5 dried pequin chiles, stems removed (also know as piquin or bird’s eye chiles)
- large pinch sea salt
- zest & juice from1 small lemon
- 1/2 cup apple pectin
- Day 1. Peel peaches by scoring an X into the blossom end of each peach, then dipping in boiling water for 1 – 2 minutes, followed by an ice-water bath. Slip the peels off once the peaches are cool enough to handle. Let peaches remain in the ice bath until fully cool, then transfer to a large bowl filled with cold water and 1 tsp citric acid (or 1/4 cup lemon juice). Halve and pit; slice peach halves in half again, then cut each quarter into 8 equal slices. Add to a medium bowl with sugar, Forsythia syrup and chiles, tossing occasionally to cover the peaches. Once the last peach is added, mix well, cover tightly, and macerate, refrigerated, overnight.
- Day 2. Transfer peaches, with their juice, to a medium stockpot or Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Remove from heat, return to bowl, and refrigerate overnight (I left them for 2 days).
- Day 3. If canning, prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Strain juice from peach mixture; add the zest of one lemon to the peach pieces, then juice of the lemon to the peach juice. Transfer the peach/lemon juice to a heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven. Add apple pectin; bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil over high heat, reducing the juice until it is syrupy, bubbling thickly, and reading 220 degrees F on an instant thermometer, about 10 – 15 minutes.
- Add peach slices to the syrup. Return to a boil and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the preserve is bubbling thickly, foam subsides, and the mixture reaches 218 degrees F (for a very soft jam set; for a firmer set, go to 220 degrees F). Fill hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace; remove air bubbles, wipe rims, affix lids and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Yields about 4 cups.
- As always, you can safely increase the sugar in this recipe should you desire. Decreasing in this instance will likely affect the set; I had to add an additional 1/2 cup at the boiling-down-the-juice stage in order to get it to reach 220 degrees F.
- Substitute forsythia syrup with a fruity, floral white wine; dandelion jelly or wine; or syrup infused with lemon verbena or lemongrass.
- Substitute Arbol or cayenne peppers for the tiny pequin peppers; Cascabel and peach also go nicely together.
- This did seem to need a pectin boost; if you don’t have apple pectin, you could try boiling the juice with an underripe, halved apple (discard before adding peaches); adding frozen concentrated apple juice or commercial pectin.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, use within 1 month.