Peach Chutney

If you need one reason to can, peaches is it. Perfectly ripe and luscious peaches are as much a treat now as they are when I open a homemade can of peaches in the dark months (or next spring before the first seasonal fruit, strawberries, ripen in May).

They are not quite as perfect  as a fresh juicy fragrant peach now… but not far. Not far.  They will certainly taste better then almost any fruit you can buy in winter.  Canned peaches are in effect poached peaches and if you can them au naturel like I do, you can use them for all kinds of preparations: naked, with yogurt, in smoothies, tarts, on top of your morning pancakes or waffles, mashed for a quick chunky sauce, mixed with other canned or dry fruit for a winter fruit salad, or puree as a base for ice-cream or sorbet.

Nonetheless, we do have – ahem! – quite a few jars of peaches canned already. And faced with the end of a bushel of ripe peaches I did not really feel like  more “canning”. Call me lazy!  Pickles, jams and chutneys only require 10 minutes in a boiling water-bath, in my smaller canner too since I use 8-oz smaller jars. Why not another condiment? This seems to be the year when I am experimenting with sweet/sour as I have made fennel agrodolce, tomates aigres douces, peach mostarda, peach barbecue sauce, pickled peaches and peach chutney using a recipe from Christine Ferber in Leçons de Confitures. Christine’s Summer Chutney uses peaches, dry apricots and poppy seeds. It was very pleasant and encouraged me to play some more and try my hands at making chutney with what I had available at the moment in the house.

Chutney is pretty straightforward to make (the basic ingredients are fresh fruit, onions, vinegar, dry fruit, sugar and spices) and endlessly tweakable. We have onions (harvested over the last few weeks), we have peaches from nearby orchards, and always have a variety of dry fruit and plenty of spices on hands. I also have ground cherries that have been accumulating. They do keep well, but they are also very productive (albeit a pain to harvest and to husk) so they need to be used. And I have made enough jams… So I gathered my ingredients and started (note: I ended up using a lot more vinegar than shown in the picture).

As I was cooking this batch, Keith came down from the office to investigate what kind of barbecue sauce I was making, because “it smelled like a really good barbecue sauce”. He literally begged to have some meat with dinner so he could slather it with the chutney. With dinner roughly one hour and 30 minutes away, there was not chance for ribs… and the freezer held no pork chops nor steak. mmm… plenty of ground meat though…

I dunked a package of ground venison and one of bulk plain pork sausage in a basin of water. While the meat was thawing, I sliced a heap of red onions and sauteed them in a cast iron skillet with a little salt, turning often until they were soft, then lowered the heat and let them sweat.  I hand mixed half pork half venison with thyme, a pinch of cumin powder, garlic powder and a healthy dose of ground black pepper. I fried the meat balls in the same pan where I had cooked the onions  (remove the onions, but not the remaining oil, so the meat balls can acquire extra flavor). Once the meatballs were partially crusted I added thin tomato juice halfway up the meat balls, and simmered them gently.

A crusty baguettes became a sub for the venison/pork meat balls, onion confit, slices of ‘Arkansas Traveler’ tomatoes, and freshly made peach chutney. Quite a bit of chutney actually.  That meal was a very happy accident: that chutney is going to be versatile. I’d serve it with any roast or grilled beef, lamb, venison, pork or poultry. Ham. Or with cheese. Or a meat sandwich.

I might give it a little more kick next time and add more chiles. It has a slight bite, but is not hot.

I did not weight the peaches before I cleaned and diced them, so the recipes calls for already pitted, peeled and diced peaches

Peach/Ground Cherry Chutney

Yields about 7 8-oz jars (220g)

  • 400 ml cider vinegar (1 1/2 C + 2 T) – i replaced some of it with peach vinegar since I had a lot left from last year
  • 800 g (1 3/4 lb) diced peeled yellow firm-ripe peaches
  • 225 g (1/2 lb) husked ground cherries *
  • 100 g dry figs, diced (about 4 large)
  • 1/3 of a plump vanilla bean, chopped finely
  • 115 g honey (about 1/3 C)
  • 275 g turbinado sugar (1 1/3 C)
  • 50 g sliced almonds (3/4 C)
  • 75 g golden raisins (2/3 C)
  • 12 cloves
  • 1/2 t ground red chiles (hot pepper – NOT chili powder)
  • 1 T crushed white or black peppercorn
  • salt to taste
  1. In a non-reactive Dutch oven, mix the cider, peaches, ground cherries,  & figs. Bring to boil, and simmer for 10 minutes
  2. Add vanilla bean, honey, sugar, almonds and simmer 30 to 40 minutes
  3. Add all remaining ingredients and simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath for long term storage.

* if you do not have ground cherries, replace with the same weight of diced peaches or apples. Maybe even some yellow tomatoes like ‘Valencia’?

Locavore Log: peaches from Williams Orchard in Woodville, ground cherries & red chiles  from the garden, honey from the bee yard.

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