With summer coming to a close, you may already find yourself mourning the loss of this season’s delectable produce. Soon, apples will replace peaches, and tomatoes will make way for squash.
However, there is a way to continue enjoying your favorite warm-weather delights well into winter: simply preserve the heck out of ‘em. We tapped Greg Vernick, the James Beard Award finalist and chef behind Philadelphia’s Vernick Food & Drink, for his tips on pickling, jarring, and compote-ing.
“Sometimes we’ll accidentally over-order certain ingredients, so preserving them is a great way to avoid being wasteful,” says Vernick, who creates housemade chili flakes by drying chili peppers over the kitchen’s hot line. “We also try to bulk up on produce towards the end of the summer, and then make jams, jellies, compotes, and pickles.”
“We really look to hang on to the fruit and tomatoes going into the fall,” Vernick continues. “We’ll get a bunch of tomatoes and cook them down into a tomato compote. Essentially, we’re making our own tomato paste, and we’ll use that all year long. You could buy your own, but we add a little sugar and aged sherry vinegar, so it has more going on.” Take a page from Vernick’s book and include the compote in a braise for braised short rib, or slather it on toast.
When it comes to stone fruit, Vernick likes to add an unexpected twist: “We’ll add one Thai chili to a sweet preserved peach, which isn’t super spicy but just adds a little bit of impact,” he says. “Sometimes we’ll take dried spices and herbs, like lemon verbena, which is in season now, and make a little sachet to add to the jar. That’s where the creative fun comes into play.” His favorite way to employ preserved stone fruit is in sorbets: “I like the fruit chunks.” Vernick and his team also make their own pickles, which he enjoys in a fresh salad.
Take a look below at his quick and easy directions for preserving summer produce like a pro.
2 cups rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
3 star anise, toasted
1 tsp of hot sauce of your choosing (Vernick likes green Tobasco)
Bring ingredients to a boil and pour over the fruit or vegetable you are pickling. Allow to sit at room temperature for 3 hours before jarring and refrigerating.
2 quart ball jars, washed and dried
6 peaches, washed well
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 small pinch of salt
10 whole black peppercorns, toasted
1. Blanch peaches for 20 seconds in boiling water, then immediately place in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Peel the peaches. Cut the peaches in half, removing the pit, then cut them in 6 or 8 wedges.
2. Bring sugar, water, and salt to a boil to create the jarring syrup (sugar content can be adjusted). Place the cut peaches, rosemary, and peppercorns into the jar. Pour the hot syrup over the peaches making sure to cover the peaches, but leaving room at the top. Cover and seal the jars properly. Boil the jars for 20 minutes. Carefully allow to cool at room temperature.
3 tomatoes (can be over ripe)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1. Blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds in boiling water, then shock in an ice bath. Peel the skin and roughly chop.
2. Place all ingredients in a saucepot and cook over medium heat, stirring often. Cook until tomatoes are thick and resemble a jam or spread. Allow to cool to room temperature. Remove bay leaf.