Special Peaches

Also known as pickled peaches.

Spiced pickled peaches by jeffreyw, on Flickr (CC License) (see his blog post here)

The seasoning of pickled peaches changed quite a bit over the years. Consider Eliza Leslie’s 1840 version from From Directions For Cookery, In Its Various Branches:

Peaches. — Take fine large peaches (either cling or free stones) that are not too ripe. Wipe off the down with a clean flannel. and put the peaches whole into a stone jar. Cover them with cold vinegar of the best kind, in which you have dissolved a little of salt, allowing a table-spoonful to a quart of vinegar. Put a cork in the jar and tie leather or oil-cloth over it.

Plums and grapes may be pickled thus in cold vinegar, but without salt.

Note that these wouldn’t be salty, as such, given that peaches are about 8.4 percent naturally occurring sugar by weight. (Which, for the record, is actually comparatively low for popular fruit–lower than apples, bananas, or oranges.) Still, the later, sugar-enhanced versions would come to be described as “sweet.”

By 1869, Elizabeth Ellicott Lea suggested seasoning with mustard seed and ginger in Domestic Cookery, Useful Receipts, and Hints to Young Housekeepers:


Pick out sound clingstone peaches; lay them in salt and water for a day, then wipe them on a coarse cloth; boil up some strong vinegar, with a little ginger, whole pepper and mustard seed; put the peaches in a jar and pour this over.

And by 1896, Fannie Merritt Farmer had a recipe with the same seasoning in different proportions in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book:

Sweet Pickled Peaches.

1/2 peck peaches
2 lbs. brown sugar
1 pint vinegar.
1 oz. stick cinnamon.

Boil sugar, vinegar, and cinnamon twenty minutes. Dip peaches quickly in hot water, then rub off the fur with a towel. Stick each peach with four cloves. Put into syrup, and cook until soft, using one-half peaches at a time.

A similar recipe using canned peaches appeared in the August 17, 1928 edition of the Newark (Ohio) Advocate under a slightly different name–and this one helpfully came with a serving suggestion:

A simple but attractive way to serve cold meat is to arrange a platter with a border of sliced meat, and fill the center of the platter with spiced fruit. Delicious spiced fruits may now be bought in gold enamel-lined cans which preserve their color perfectly.

Should you desire to prepare your own spiced fruits, the task need not be very difficult.

There is no royal road to learning, but there is a royal road to preparing spiced and sweet pickled fruit, if you prefer to make your own, at home.

Canned Peach Pickles: Here is an excellent peach pickle that does not necessitate the arduous paring and stoning of peaches, and that is a real economy in cost, as well as in actual time required to prepare it. A few minutes of boiling each day for three days is all of the preparation that is required. Drain one No. 2 can of peach halves. To this syrup from the can add one-half cup vinegar, three-fourths cup sugar, two long pieces of stick cinnamon and one-half teaspoon cloves. Boil the seasoned syrup for ten minutes. Pour it over the peaches and let stand for twenty-four hours. Drain off the next day and boil again for ten minutes, and pour back over the peaches. Do the same the third day, then pour into glass jars and seal.

Arduous? Really? If we’re going to call cleaning peaches arduous, we’re going to run out of adjectives when we need to describe opening a coconut.

And here’s a curry-spiked version starting from a can that appeared in the October 22, 1953 edition of The Portsmouth (Ohio) Times:

Special Spiced Peaches

Ingredients: One No. 2-1/2 can (1 pound and 13 ounces) yellow free-stone peaches (in extra heavy syrup), 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 8 whole cloves, one 2-inch stick cinnamon, 1 tablespoon pickling spice, 1/4 teaspoon curry powder, dash of salt.

Method: Turn peaches into strainer over 1 quart saucepan; drain well. To syrup add sugar, vinegar, cloves, cinnamon, pickling spice, curry powder and salt; stir and bring to a boil; boil about 20 minutes or until syrup is reduced to about 1 cup.

Pour over peach halves; cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove peaches from syrup and spices and stick 1 whole clove into each half.

But here’s the thing: while the recipes calling for pre-cooked peaches might have similar spices, the flavor likely would show some differences. One of the keys to an authentic pickled peach is that, like any other pickle, the flavor develops in the jar over time. But also, like any other pickle, there’s a variety of textures and flavors you can have and still be considered “pickled.”

So yes, these are all pickled peach recipes. And they’re all pretty special.

From the box of C.N. sold in De Soto, Kansas.

2. Special Peaches

1/2 peck peaches
4 lbs. brown sugar
1 qt. vinegar (dilute)
2 oz. cinnamon
cloves (1 pkg.)

  1. Boil sugar, vinegar, and spice 20 minutes.
  2. Dip peaches quickly in hot water.
  3. Place enough peaches for one quart (10 minutes) in vinegar. Cook until tender to center.
  4. Place fruit in jars and cover with vinegar–syrup–seal.
  5. Continue cooking peaches, until all are caned.

Catherine Nichepor

Yesterdish reminder: Our understanding of food safety has evolved. Don’t rely on old canning recipes to make things shelf-stable.

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