Pickled peaches have me dreaming of Thanksgiving in the beginning of June. If you have never had a perfectly pickled peach grace your holiday dinner, this probably sounds bizarre to you. But, these sweet, tart, and lightly spiced treats are the perfect accompaniment to salty ham, cornbread dressing, or roasted turkey. We love them in the fall, but they are also delicious with barbecued pork or fried chicken at summer picnics. Regardless of when you are going to enjoy them, make them when peaches are in season in your area.
I live about an hour’s drive from Chilton County, home of the Peach Queens and arguably the most delicious peaches grown in the world. Last weekend, I picked up a case of peaches as I was passing through the area. I do not usually can many peaches, because even though they are grown near by, they are still pretty expensive and there are no organic peaches grown commercially in Alabama. If we had peach trees or had a source for free organic peaches, I would can as many of them as I could get my hands on. Since we do not, I only purchase peaches to use in special canned foods that are hard to come by, such as pickled peaches.
A few years ago, my mother was incredibly disappointed when she could not find pickled peaches in any of the local grocery stores for Thanksgiving dinner. The next year, she was able to find them, and she went completely overboard and stocked up ridiculous quantities of them; ridiculous quantities that I was happy to help eat. To avoid any future pickled peach shortages, I try to can them every year.
Ideally, you would make pickled peaches with whole dwarf fruits that could fit easily into the mouths of canning jars. I have never actually seen tiny peaches for sale though. I grew my own years ago on two Patio Peach trees. They were lovely little trees some years, but some years they were covered in fungus and I eventually determined they were too much of a headache to deal with. If you can get your hands on any though, they are hard fleshed peaches that are perfect for pickling. The next best thing would be to purchase freestone peaches, such as Alberta, and cut them in half or in slices. I was in a hurry when I picked up this case of peaches and did not pay attention to what variety they were. They were clingstone peaches that I was not able to cut into beautiful ideal halves. They will still be delicious. Make this recipe with the best you can get. And firmer is better in this case. Even if they are ugly, they will be super tasty.
This recipe is for a small batch to fill 4 pint sized jars.
- 10-12 medium peaches
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1-2 Tablespoon whole cloves
- 12 very thin slices of ginger (optional)
- Sterilize mason jars by boiling in a large water bath canner. Leave the jars in the hot canner turned down low until you are ready for them.
- Peal and cut peaches. Peaches can be pealed with a knife or blanched and dipped in ice water. Since this was a small batch, I just pealed them with a knife. If you have miniature peaches you could can them whole . If you are canning Freestone peaches I would recommend cutting them in half and removing the pit or quartering them. The peaches I used were clingstone peaches, too large to be processed whole, so I cut them the best way I could. Some jars were filled with rough halves, and some were filled with slices.
- Combine sugar, vinegar and water in a medium sauce pan on the stove top. Bring mixture to a low boil for 10 minutes stirring frequently.
- Very carefully, add the peaches to the syrup and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
- Remove peaches from liquid with a slotted spoon. Fill jars with peaches, softly pressing them down to pack in as many pieces as possible. Using a jar funnel makes filling jars much easier.
- Add 3 slices of ginger (optional), 7 whole cloves and 1 cinnamon stick to each jar. I usually try to buy high quality spices whenever possible. But, a taste test done by the Chicago Tribune shows that the taste of “fake” cinnamon sticks vs “real” cinnamon sticks is negligible. So, don’t waste $9.00 on cinnamon sticks. They are all made from similar trees and you will not notice the difference in this recipe.
- Ladle the hot pickling syrup into the jars, leaving 1/2″ head space. Slide a spatula or a chopstick down the sides of the jars when needed to remove air bubbles.
- Clean the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel and then apply 2 piece canning lids.
- Using a jar lifter, lower jars in to water bath canner (large pot of water with protective grate in the bottom).
- Raise heat and bring to a full boil. Boil for 20 minutes.
- Carefully remove jars and place them on a towel to protect your countertop.
- Wait 2 weeks before eating for the peaches to develop their full wonderful flavors.