By Kim Robson
This summer has provided such a bounty of beautiful, fragrant and colorful produce that it’s hard not to take it all home. Luckily, when you know how to can, you CAN take it all home and preserve it for later! I found some gorgeous “red velvet” nectarines one week at the farmer’s market but have not seen them again since. I’m so glad I didn’t hesitate! I found the following recipe from Bon Appetit’s website and adapted it for the nectarines.
Red Velvet Nectarine Preserves with Earl Grey
2-1/2 cups sugar
2 TBSP lemon juice
3 TBSP classic fruit pectin
1 TBSP Earl Grey tea, finely crushed
· Clean and pit nectarines, and chop into 1/4 inch pieces. Add sugar and lemon juice, and stir to combine. Let stand for 15-30 minutes to macerate.
· Meanwhile, clean six 8-ounce jars with soap and hot water. Rinse thoroughly, and set aside in a pot of hot water.
· Transfer fruit mixture to a pot and add the tea. Begin cooking on a medium heat.
· Add pectin. (It’s a gelling agent. Make it 4 TBSP if you like your preserves very jelly-y.)
· Cook on medium low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently. Mash fruit with a potato masher.
· Transfer to jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. (I do 20 minutes because of the altitude where I live.) Transfer jars to a wood block and let rest undisturbed for 12 hours. Push down on lid buttons: when they stay down, the jars are sealed and shelf stable until opened.
Next, I tried the same recipe, only with white peaches and mint tea. Turned out AMAZING.
Then, instead of adding teas, I tried something different. I tied up a bouquet garni of fresh oregano from my garden and added it to the fruit as it was cooking. Before canning, I removed and discarded the herb bundle. The result? Yellow peach preserves infused with oregano. Delicious and subtly fragrant.
Then I did the same thing again, only with plum preserves infused with rosemary. This took a bit more work, as I had to remove the plum skins. Plum skins are too bitter to include; otherwise, I like to keep skins on for color, texture and vitamins. First, cut a shallow “X” in the bottom of each plum. Then blanch them in boiling water for one to two minutes, until the skins begin peeling away at the X. Quickly remove the plums to an ice water bath. Remove skins. A few may “crackle” instead of peel, and those will require a paring knife to remove the skins. After that, just core and cut the fruit as usual, and continue with the recipe.
I really love how colorful and jewel-like the finished jars look. They make fantastic gifts for just about anyone you may know. For me, it’s also just fun, and I get a deep sense of satisfaction from putting up all of these gorgeous summertime jewels. For more detailed instructions on how to do the canning itself, you can revisit our Green-Mom article, “Canning 101.” It’s really easier than you may think. Once you master the basics, you can get creative with different flavor combinations. Dive in this summer and try it!