Friends and readers know that I want my food to have a story. I want to be able to tell you who grew it, how they harvested it, and what is the name of their family dog.
And weekending in southwest Michigan’s orchard belt means I have an unending parade of deliciousness at my doorstep from the first May rhubarb to the last autumn pear.
So when the Washington fruit growers offered to send me stone fruit to experiment with, I was a little flummoxed. Would accepting such a gift somehow be disloyal to my beloved Midwest? I took an informal poll and the result was no, Washington state growers are in the brotherhood of orchard owners, and their fruit deserves a day in the sun too. Plus, they’ve put together a great site to help preservers of all stripes at Sweet Preservation. As I’ve mentioned (twice) before, I love their customizable labels.
So in the spirit of solidarity and science, I said yes to fruit. Shortly thereafter a case of Sweet Dream peaches arrived with some nectarines of an unlabeled variety, from the Valicoff Fruit Company, a third-generation orchard in the Yakima Valley. I got to work thinking up how I’d cook these luscious orbs. A couple options rose to the top. Today, peach rosemary preserves.
As I mentioned in my improv preserves post, I find the fool-proof, time-tested, never-fail ratio is to use equal weights of fruit and sugar to achieve the right texture and ensure longevity for your jam. Lemon juice lends a nice flavor balance to keep it from being too cloying. Here, the rosemary is a surprising punctuation mark, something of a riff on my blueberry basil jam.
Peach Rosemary Preserves
Makes 5 cups
2 pounds chopped and pitted stone fruit, in this recipe 3 peaches and 1 nectarine
2 pounds granulated sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup minced rosemary
Pour fruit, sugar and lemon juice into a large saucepan or stock pot. Set aside for an hour or two to let the fruit macerate. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to medium to avoid boiling over. Draw a sturdy rubber scraper across the bottom of the pan to prevent any scorching. After about 20 minutes, stir in the rosemary. Once the jam thickens (this will vary depending on your fruit, stove and pan), you should be able to draw a finger quickly and carefully across the rubber spatula and a line will remain. This is when you can test for doneness.
Place a bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice water. Spoon a representative sample of jam into the bowl and move it around until it reaches room temperature. If it’s your desired texture, proceed to the canning stage. If it’s too runny, cook another five minutes and test again.
Enjoy! Do you have some favorite fruit and herb pairings?