Piquant Peach Icebox Relish

I found this heirloom idea of curing fruit in sugar and salt intensifies fresh flavors. At the same time, it is a brilliantly easy preserving method. No heat is used so that gorgeous peach flavor never flattens out. On summer weekends, I haunt markets and bring home all sorts of fruits. I line them up in strainers and end up with no room in the fridge for its usual occupants. I add herbs to some jars, others get chiles and spices, and on occasion some get moistened with rum or bourbon.

Serve this spicy peach relish on cracker bread, rye bread, on cucumber slices with blue cheese, or just on its own. And don't overlook pairing it with anything grilled -- from fish to tempeh to steak to grilled fruits.

  • 4 large, firm, ripe, good-tasting peaches, peeled and cut into 8 or 10 pieces each
  • 3/4 cup sugar and more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 whole seeded and minced serrano or jalapeño chile
  • Juice of 1-1/2 large limes
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick, cracked

1. Three days to 2 weeks before serving, place a large strainer over a bowl. Add the peaches to the strainer and gently toss them with the sugar, salt, pepper, chile and the juice of 1 large lime. Let stand loosely covered overnight on a counter.

2. The next day, scrape the juice from the bowl into a small saucepan. Boil it with the cinnamon stick until thickened but not caramelized. Let it cool.

3. Taste the peaches for sweetness, adding another spoon of sugar if you'd like. Pack them into a large clean glass jar. Pour in the syrup and cinnamon, and squeeze a little more lime in the jar. Tighten the lid on the jar, and shake like a cocktail shaker to blend everything. Refrigerate at least 2 days before using, turning the jar each day.

Makes 4 to 5 cups
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