Viewing the World Through Rosy Nectarine JarsMisc. / June 23, 2013
For me, a Saturday is better if I visit a Farmer’s Market. It just smells like the earth and the season and melds the goodness of life with food. I was feeling so proud of myself about the cherry preserves that I wondered if these beautiful nectarines, priced right, and heaped into the top of a barrel like Tiffany jewels, would behave just as nicely. Wrapping them up in my arms, we cooed to each other about being nestled in a gurgling bath of sugar and lemon juice, and they promised me sweetness.
You should know, though, that even though cherries and nectarines have a stone heart, they are not cousins. A nectarine is messier, smooshier, and less cooperative. (I can talk this way now without hurting their feelings since I cooked the ever living daylights out of them. And in their defense, they behaved just as they were programmed to: STICKY!)
I started with the same technique; cutting around the fruit with a sharp knife, intending to remove the pale, dimpled center in one graceful motion. And that worked for the first two. Then the third simply exploded on me, and juice went everywhere. (Guess this is where I caution you about wardrobe again.) But after we got to know each other, the task went quickly and soon I had 7 and a half cups of beautiful, golden sweet chunks. There is one caveat. You do NOT peel these little suckers. The pectin you need is in the skin, as well as the color, and the essence of what makes it so beautiful on your plate. So don’t whine too loudly about it being high maintenance.)
Again, calculating the amounts of the next few ingredients was made through the collective genius of the online experts I accessed. You will be happy to note at the end of this saga that I guessed unbelievable correctly. And when the sugar and the lemon juice infused themselves into the fruit, the juices and softness of the mixture took on a glow that was beautiful. I almost felt bad I had to turn on the burner!
After bringing to a regular but tamed boil, and stirring with a wooden spatula most of the time, the mixture was frothy and looked like pale yellow foam; hints of rose etched into the bubbles letting me know the skins were beginning to do their job. After 30 minutes of cooking I could see we were still a bit away from success, but I added the flavorings and rum at that point. Cooking for another 10 minutes, I could see the foam was all but gone and the fruit looked like dark golden jewels in the thickening and rosy colored pool of syrup. Opting for the dish in the freezer technique again, I took it off the stove and placed a bit of the lovely drippings onto the plate and after three minutes (yes, I continued to stir the mixture at a slow, slow boil while waiting for the cold to share the secret of the pectin’s magic), the nudge test was a success. As you will learn, this is something you do by feel.
Putting the lids on, and then later, after some cooling, affixing the labels I created, I was now able to share my treasures. Seemed like a fitting tribute to this smooth, sweet and soft spoken fruit. Le Vie en Rose lives on in my preserves!