Open my kitchen pantry and you'll see, stacked on the floor, three cases of different size Ball canning jars. Our kitchen has been awash in summer preserve and pickle-making process, with sticky jams and hot water baths and lots and lots of fruit. My friends wll probably tell you I've become mildy obsessed, if only because I have found a way to put those wonderful peak-season fruits and vegetables to good use. Bought too many peaches? Preserve them! Love those summer tomatoes? Can them! Berries going bad too quickly? Make jam!
For me, the excitement came with the white nectarines in the markets this year, the kind that are so good you eat them with juice running down your chin and sliced in breakfast cereal and in salads and for dessert. So infatuated was I with these white nectarines that I couldn't bear the thought that they would soon go out of season, which is where the preserving part comes in. But if you were never the home-ec type these preserves are just as wonderful to make without the whole canning process.
This isn't jam but a compote, so you get still a nice chunk of nectarine texture, but capturing in a sweet lemon and cardamom-tinted sauce. The technique for the compote is inspired by the French queen of jam-making Christine Farber: the fruit are marinated whole in a sugar mixture to draw out their juices, then cooked for a very short time so that their fresh clean flavor is preserved and not reduced into an overly-sweet jammy muddle.
The compote was so successful it inspired three more different batches of preserves, including jam and pickles, and resulted in those fats of canning jars on the floor of my pantry. I'll share more details on those soon, but in the meantime, do you preserve, and if so, what do you make?
White Nectarine and Cardamom Compote
This compote is different from jam in its fresh clean flavor and the addition of cardamom. It's excellent on buttermilk biscuits, mixed into oatmeal or granola, over pancakes, or topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Makes 4 small jars.
4 cups sliced ripe white nectarines
1 1/2 cups sugar
juice of 2 lemons plus a little bit of zest
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1. Peel and slice the nectarines. he nectarines should be ripe enough that you should be able to just pull the peel off with your fingers. If they are not that ripe, you can peel them by blaching them in boiling water for 1 minute, then shocking them in an ice water bath, and then slipping the skins off.
2. Place the nectarines in a bowl with the sugar and lemon juice/zest. Let nectarines marinate for 2 hours at room temperature, or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
3. If you will be canning your jam, prepare you hot water bath and disinfect your jars/lids now.
4. Strain the nectarines through a strainer, pouring the juices into a saucepan. Bring juices to simmer over medium heat. Boil, skimming off any foam, until the syrup becomes a jammy consistency (221F on a thermometer or test the jam on a plate in the freezer to see if it gels). Add the nectarines into the syrup and boil, skimming foam, for five more minutes. Add the cardamom.
5. Pack into jar and process in a hot water bath for 12 minutes, according to canning practices. Or merely let cool and store in the fridge for up to one month.