Peaches are a fickle prize for someone who lives in the Upper Midwest. The best fruit doesn’t travel well, and there are only a few varieties that thrive in Wisconsin. I have one of those trees in my yard, where I planted it about 7 years ago. Last year I didn’t taste a single peach. Nothing. Nada. Zero. High wind or weird weather may have been the culprit. I also didn’t see many pollinators, and my pruning surely lacked finesse. Fingers crossed for 2020!
So thank goodness for the peach truck. This fleet of produce trucks shuttles between Michigan, the south, and peach-needy cities around the Midwest. And it was my struggle to handle the sudden bounty of 40 very ripe peaches that led to the discovery of peach ketchup. It’s origin is lost in history, so if someone can reconnect me to something approximating the original recipe, I’d be grateful. In the meanwhile, I added one wrinkle to the process. While the original reciipe suggests you can peel the peaches and plop them directly into the pot, the slow roasting technique I experimented with seems to add an extra layer of velvet to the flavor.
- 5 pounds of peaches, nectarines, or some combination of the two
- 2 1/2 cups champagne vinegar
- 1 pound brown sugar
- 1 small vanilla bean
- 2 2-inch strips of orange zest
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed
- 1 1/2 inch piece of peeled ginger root, sliced into thin discs
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 nutmeg, cracked (a garlic press works well—squeeze just until it gives and retrieve the pieces)
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries
- 1 cinnamon stick
1Wash peaches. Slice in half, removing pits, labels, and any bad spots. Arrange face down on a steel baking sheet and place in a 350 degree oven. Bake until the skins are well on their way to wrinkled and they begin to express liquid. If you space them very closely it may take a little longer to for them to soften, but there is less chance of any caramelization of the liquids to progress to burning. (Do not use parchment paper as it will soak up a lot of the valuable juice and sugars.) Remove from heat and allow to cool.
2Slip the skins from the peaches and transfer the fruit to a heavy bottomed sauce pot.
3Add the vinegar and the brown sugar to the sauce pot and bring up the heat.
4Add the vanilla bean, the cinnamon stick, and the orange zest to the pot.
5Place the remainder of the spice mixture in a wrapping of cheese cloth, or — if you have one—a large tea ball. Submerge this savory parcel into the mixture and simmer for about an hour.
6Remove the spice parcel, setting on a small plate to drain. Turn off heat and allow the mixture to cool sufficiently. Remove vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and orange zest, and return any goodness drained from the spice parcel to the pot, then run through a blender, food mill, or food processor until smooth. CAUTION: very hot liquid in a blender or food processor can expand explosively.
7If canning, return to heat and proceed as your great grandmother might have. Otherwise, store in the fridge, where it should last well beyond a month.
See also: Pro Tips for Ketchup Crafting