Pickled Peaches

As far as I’m concerned, pickled peaches were created (probably in Colonial times) to serve primarily with pork barbecue and country ham. Like many Southerners, I keep an eager eye open for June’s first firm clingstones, with the express intention of canning them as quickly as possible in quart jars. (Freestone peaches can also be used, but since they tend to be softer than clings, they can become mushy much more quickly.) Some cooks like to simmer the peaches 5 or 10 minutes in the hot syrup before canning them, while others prefer to crush the cinnamon sticks and add bits and pieces to the jars. Whatever you do, just make sure the peaches are not too ripe, and for a truly special dish, be sure to make the Congealed Pickled Peach and Pecan Salad.

Ingredients

  • 12 firm ripe peaches (about 3 pounds)
  • 24 whole cloves
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • cups sugar
  • Three 2-inch-long cinnamon sticks

Method

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, drop the peaches into the water 3 or 4 at a time, and let cook 2 to 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a colander, douse with cold water, then remove their skins with a knife. Stud each peach with 2 cloves.

In a large stainless-steel or enameled saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, and cinnamon, bring to a boil, stirring, reduce the heat slightly, and cook till a medium-thick syrup forms, 15 to 20 minutes.

Pack the peaches into two 1-quart sterilized jars, ladle the hot syrup over the peaches to within ¼ inch of the tops, seal, and store for at least 2 months at room temperature before serving.