IN A PICKLE BY KATE PAYNE • PHOTOGRAPHY BY JO ANN SANTANGELO
he world of fruit pickles opened up before me during a
microorganisms to thrive. Spices and aromatics are infused into
particularly lush summer of peaches while I was living in
the pickled matter by osmosis, which can be sped up with heat.
New York. I rolled home from the farmers market, with 14
Fruit is perhaps not commonly thought of as solid pickle materi-
pounds of peaches, to my basement apartment in Brooklyn—my
al, but tracing back through southern favorites we find watermel-
getaway vehicle being a bike with a storage rack, a tangle of
on rind pickles (made from the scraps of a melon) and gingery,
assorted bungees and a 10-pound Chihuahua-Jack Russell mix
spiced pickled peaches, or hopping the ocean, we find chutneys
accomplice perched like a cherry on top of the mess. (We literally
and tangy fruit spreads spanning many ethnic traditions.
rolled without a car in those days.)
Pickling fruit is an excellent alternative to turning it into jam
After the spectacle of getting my weekend peach extravagan-
for those who are not big fans of sweet preserves. Fruit pickles are
za home, there was only so much jam and sauce I could stand to
more complex, a more grown-up incarnation. My all-time favorite
make in my hot little kitchen. I always joke that it’s a wonder I ever
use for pickled fruit is using the brine for shrub cocktails and
canned again after that first foray into sealing jars via water-bath
dropping in the pickled fruit as a garnish.
canning. It turns out that I prefer to be a small-batch canner, not a
These canning recipes work well using a water-bath for lon-
put-up-the-entire-harvest kind of canner. One of the projects that
ger-term storage, but I prefer to just pickle small batches and
my ripe-and-ready peaches endured and excelled at was a single jar
store them in the refrigerator, where they stay firmer. I encour-
of refrigerator pickles. In subsequent years, with way fewer peach-
age lots of experimentation, as fruit will evolve throughout the
es, I’ve reserved more for this particular delicacy, canned them,
course of the season. Early-season fruits tend to be a bit more
conservatively gifted them and proceeded to hoard the remainder.
tart, but the later they hang on, the sweeter they become. Exper-
Pickling is the process of either pouring an acidic solution
imenting with non-sugar sweeteners is also welcome, although
over fruits and vegetables or using salt or a saltwater brine to en-
they can produce darker brines and generally deeper, more mo-
courage the growth of lactic acid-producing bacteria; both meth-
lasses-like flavors. When using a sugar-alternative, I will some-
ods promote an environment too acidic for spoiler bacteria and
times add a bit of organic citrus zest to brighten things up.
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