Looking for ways to upgrade your weeknight chicken, pork, or white fish dinners? Want a killer topper for cheese crackers, hot wings, or even ice cream? Look no further than this recipe for hot pepper peach preserves! She’s sweet, she’s spicy, she’s a total 10…plus she’s sweetened with honey. No refined sugar required! 😍
If you, like me, are obsessed with summer stone fruit, this recipe is an absolute must for you. Plus, if properly canned, this spicy peach chutney will keep in a cool, dark place for about two years (via Countryside). Let’s keep the summer vibe going!
In this post, we’ll take a look at the ingredients and their benefits as well as some Frequently Asked Questions about home canning. We’ll also explore some of the best ways to eat peach preserves, too–and why spicy and sweet is the best flavor combination of the summer months.
All Things Peach
Remember that montage in James and the Giant Peach when the characters feast on the flesh of the giant peach? There’s singing and dancing and peach-juice-making and the whole crew is in a tizzy over the abundance of the massive stone fruit. That entire montage is pretty much how the inside of my mouth feels every time I bite into a perfectly ripe peach. Unless you slice it, it’s nearly impossible not to make a juicy, sticky mess down your chin and arms when you bite into a good peach–making it perhaps the only time in life when it’s even vaguely enjoyable to be sticky. It’s a summer rite of passage, biting into a fresh peach. Let’s answer some peachy questions.
Are Peaches Good for You?
The answer is: mostly. While an average peach may contain around 13 grams of sugar (via Rutgers), raw peaches also contain fiber, protein, Vitamins A, C, E, K, and beneficial minerals like manganese, zinc, copper, potassium, folate, iron, and more (Rutgers). What’s more, peaches also contain antioxidants, which are correlated with decreased risk of illnesses like cancer.
Are Peaches Good for Dogs?
In small quantities, raw peaches are ok to share with your pup, taking care to remove the pit. Canned or preserved peaches likely have too much sugar to share with Fido, so be sure to pass on the best the peach has to offer in its raw state if you’re planning on sharing.
When Is Peach Season?
Of course, the period in which peaches ripens depends on the climate where they are planted–but typically, in the northern hemisphere, peaches ripen during the end of spring and into summer, sometimes as late as August. Contrary to popular belief (and the fact that it is sometimes called “the Peach State”), Georgia is not the largest producer of peaches in the U.S. That title belongs to California, which experiences a peach season from mid-July to mid-September (via California Farmland Trust). On the other hand, Georgia enjoys a peach season spanning from mid-May to mid-August.
Can Peaches Ripen Off the Tree?
The short answer is yes: peaches will ripen after they are picked. For best results, allow them to ripen at room temperature rather than in the fridge, and for extra speedy ripening, place them in a bag with some ripe bananas.
Where Peaches Grow Best
Peaches grow best in warm climates typically found in Zones 6-8–but they can also bear fruit in Zones 4-9 as well. Other than California and Georgia, the other U.S. states most known for their peachy contributions include New Jersey and South Carolina (from U.S. Department of Agriculture).
Which Peaches Are the Sweetest?
When it comes to finding the sweetest peach, your best bet is seeking the white-fleshed varieties such as Elegant Lady or Belle of Georgia. This is because peaches with white flesh have a lower acidity level and a higher sugar content than their yellow-fleshed cousins (from Lane Southern Orchards). The same source goes on to say that Donut Peaches are generally considered the sweetest peach–though when it comes to flavor, there’s a lot to enjoy about yellow-fleshed peach varieties like Autumn Gold or Suncrest. For a more complete look at peach varietals, check out this guide from Pick Your Own!
Why Are My Peaches Mealy?
There is a special type of disappointment when you bite into a fresh peach expecting mouthwatering sweetness and are met with fibrous, mealy mouthful. A good peach is sublime, and a disappointing one is…somehow extra disappointing? There’s not much sadder than striking out with a mealy peach. So what causes this phenomenon, and how do you avoid it?
There are a combination of factors that can cause mealy peaches. The first is a genetic predisposition towards mealiness–generally found in late-season cultivars that are considered easier to grow. This is why getting the perfect peach can sometimes either cost more (because of more laborious growing and meticulous processing conditions) or only happen once every blue moon.
Another factor that can cause mealy peaches is improper handling after they’ve been picked–that is to say, if peaches have been cooled too rapidly after harvest. To be specific, peaches require about two full days or 48 hours to relax at around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. If peaches are brought below this optimal temperature too soon after harvest, they are much more likely to become mealy–particularly if they are refrigerated or frozen! This is sometimes referred to as “chilling injury” (via UC Davis study).
To prevent your peaches from undue mealiness, be sure to keep them at room temperature, and only chill in order to prevent them from becoming overripe as a last resort. For best results, look for a u-pick farm in your area where you can pick fresh peaches yourself and ensure they will be properly treated on their way from bough to belly.
Does Eating Spicy Foods When It’s Hot Out Keep You Cool?
While nothing can change the relentless climbing of your thermostat in summer, there are certain foods you can eat to cool down. While ice cream is generally a tempting option, some people maintain that eating spicy foods can actually keep you cool–but is there any truth to this?
Of course, when you eat hot sauce or other foods containing capsaicin, the “spicy” compound found in hot peppers, it might not seem like you’re cooling down. In fact, you will likely begin to sweat, should you eat enough of something that is spicy for your palate. However, this does initiate the body’s natural cooling process, which can help you cool off on a hot day. Capsaicin may actually help to improve blood circulation and heart health as well–a few more reasons to eat warming foods regularly (via Delish)!
Let’s Get to the Hot Pepper Peach Preserves!
This recipe is dead simple, and doesn’t even require the so-called cold plate test. Basically, chop all your ingredients to the desired size, zest your lemon, and combine the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot.
Toss in the honey and apple cider vinegar and stir over medium-high heat for a few minutes…add some corn starch if desired, stir until starch is activated, and ladle into sterile jars!
For any questions on how to sterilize your jam jars, please reference this post on David Lebovitz’ small-batch apricot jam. However, if you are not looking to keep your preserves for the long term, you can always throw them into clean jars fresh from the dish washer and give them away to friends or family to eat up within a week.
Also, please note that you can totally leave out the cornstarch in this recipe and substitute it for pectin. There is not a lot of natural pectin in peaches OR peppers, so most of the natural pectin in this recipe comes from the lemon zest. I added cornstarch as a viable substitute to help the mixture thicken to a spreadable consistency so I could eat it with cheese and crackers–but if you’re planning on using this mixture for marinates or in context where consistency doesn’t matter, feel free to leave out the starch/pectin!
Hot Pepper Peach Preserves (Spicy Peach Chutney)
- 4 cups peaches, chopped into small pieces
- 2 red chili peppers, diced
- 2 serranos, diced
- zest of one lemon
- 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
- 4 cups honey
- 1 Tbs cornstarch, optional, OR
- 2 oz pectin powder, optional
- In a large, heavy-bottomed dutch oven or pot, combine chopped peaches, diced peppers, lemon zest, and vinegar. (When dicing the peppers, remember that the seeds and pith contain the spicy compound capsaicin--so if you want your preserves on the spicy side, leave some seeds and pith.) Bring to a boil over medium high heat until the fruit begins to sweat, stirring regularly.
- Add honey and cornstarch, and boil the mixture for about one minute, adding cornstarch until sufficiently thickened. Be sure to cook the cornstarch long enough to "activate" it, or until the mixture becomes gloopy and gelatinous.
- Ladle into sterile jars and boil for 10 minutes for long-term keeping; OR, ladle into clean jars and refrigerate. Please consume refrigerated hot pepper peach preserves within one week, and properly canned preserves within two years. Enjoy!