Given the remarkably mild winter and resulting early growing season, peaches are beginning to appear at the local markets. They’re about 3 weeks early and the growers are estimating a bumper crop this year. Typically Texas peaches come into season in mid-May in South Texas and run through August/September in the northern part of the State. You have three broad categories of Peaches:
Cling Peaches, meaning peaches whose flesh clings to the pit, generally available at roadside stands and markets in mid-May.
Semi-freestone Peaches, not quite as clingy, usually available beginning in early June.
Freestone Peaches, whose flesh readily separates from the pit, generally available beginning in June and July.
Fresh, local peaches are found in almost all of the states. So there is no excuse buying peaches other than local peaches. The local farmers will appreciate it, the fruit will be fresher, have more sugars (because it wasn’t picked prematurely to take to Big Box Markets), and taste better. When choosing peaches, do not squeeze them as you only bruise them. You see, peaches get softer and juicier after picking but they only develop flavor and sweetness on the tree. So squeezing peaches tells you nothing, unless, of course, they are rock hard. Also, the amount and depth of pink coverage on the skin varies and does not signify ripeness. When looking at the peach’s color, look at the peach’s base color. The peach’s lightest color, regardless of shade (cream, yellow, orange, etc.), should be a warm hue. Any sign of green undertones reveals fruit that has been picked prematurely so avoid it. Like melons, smell is also a very good indicator of the level of flavor. Another trick is to examine the area around the stem. This area will give you a good indication as to its ripeness when picked. The stem cavity should be wide and open rather than narrow and restricted.
While I love Nectarines, Peaches may be my favorite stone fruit. I love their floral aroma and sweet, juicy flesh. They are also exceptionally versatile. Peaches can be dried, canned, made into jams, jellies, and preserves, used as filling for desserts, and used as an ingredient in all sorts of dishes dishes from appetizers to entrees. This recipe blends the sweetness and flavor of the peaches with the aromatic, unique, slightly sweet and savory flavor of cardamom coupled with the savoriness and heat from the jalapeño. This is a beautiful way to start your day with a slice of toast and butter. While it has some heat, it is not hot. I hope you give this a try. It really is one of my favorite preserves.
- 4 lb peaches peeled, pitted and sliced
- 5 cups sugar
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp green cardamon pods, crushed
- 1/2 cup fresh jalapeños, red & green
Peel and stone the peaches. Start by making a shallow X cut through the skin of the peach on its end.
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. Now you can peel the peaches with remarkable ease.
Once peeled, slice the peaches into pieces roughly 1/2 an inch thick.
Stem and seed the jalapeños, cut the into small dice and add to a large bowl.
Add the peaches to the bowl.
lemon juice (sorry – no photo 😮 ) and sugar.
Cover and macerate overnight.
Next day, smash the cardamom pods coarsely and wrap them in cheese cloth.
Put the peach/jalapeño mixture in a large pot.
Add cardamon sachet
Heat 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 syrupy. Remove from the heat and let 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). Cool and store. Produces 4 – 5 pints.