We have been knee deep in peaches this season. It is likely that I could be classified as an in-season peach hoarder. My lovely wife has broken out in a rash and braved canker sores from eating so many. It was not until we were ready to hit the market the next day and we still had peaches. I knew that I was planning on buying more peaches, so I wanted to put these peaches up.
I do not eat jam often so I opted to make a pickle. I looked around for a pickled peach that appealed to me. All of them seemed to be loaded with sugar, tending towards overly sweet. Peaches are already as sweet as I could handle, so I wanted to introduce other flavors, so I started with a standard pickle base – cider vinegar, water and salt.
From here, I foraged through the pantry and the herb box to find items that fit with peaches, but instead of simply shoving the flavors over the sweet edge, I wanted contrast and complements. My first thought was adding savory notes through chilis and shallot. Next, I wanted to add some green flavor, but after a few trials with different herbs, I settled on mint. It seemed to create a bridge between the sweet and the rest.
At this point, I took a step back and found that I was not really thinking peaches, I was going back to a comfortable brine. I went back to the drawing board and thought about peaches. Three ingredients came to mind. First was ginger. Similar to how garlic in dropped into a brine to infuse the flavors, I thought ginger could do the same. They play well together in kimchi, so I thought that this pickle would be a natural extension.
Next, was molasses. Going back to the beginning, nearly all pickled peaches were loaded down with sugar. A byproduct of sugar production is blackstrap molasses and is a natural pair with peaches. I have never seen a molasses pickle, so I was curious and a little apprehensive on how it would work out. The third item calmed my nerves a little.
Bourbon. After pickling cucumbers with gin, I was apprehensive about being “the guy who pickles everything with spirits”, but I tried a quart with and without bourbon and the quart with bourbon ended up tasting better, so here goes.
There were a few trials, but what came out was pretty great. It looks odd to be sure with the murky brown pickling brine and the sunburst of color from the peaches, the deep orange from the chili, and the green from the mint, but the flavors are really complex. You get the bourbon acting as a catalyst for the vinegar immediately, then the sweetness from the peaches with the mint and finally the malty, bitterness from the molasses. The ginger and chili almost give the whole bite a tingle-filled sensation as ghost chilis are no joke, Scoville-wise. If you are sensitive to heat, find a milder chili as the vinegar/bourbon brine is rich with heat from the chili and ginger.
As noted above, this is not your mother’s pickle and to give these to the non-adventurous eater might be a mistake. If you like wild pickles with non-traditional flavors, these would be up your alley. If you consume rich foods and like to balance them with interesting pickles, these would be your ideal.
Bourbon Molasses pickled peaches
Makes 1 quart
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 4 teaspoons molasses
- 1 hot chili
- 1 shallot
- 2 sprigs mint
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 2 shots bourbon, one for peaches and one for me
- 3 peaches cut into 8 wedges
Step one: Add peaches, mint, chili, shallot, ginger to a quart sized jar. Take shot of bourbon for fortitude. Add another to jar.
Step two: Combine cider vinegar, water, salt, and molasses in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Take off of heat for 5 minutes.
Step three: Add pickling liquid to jar of peaches. Stick in fridge for 3 days. Use at will.