It’s that time of year here in Abruzzo when you can pick up a kilo of deep crimson, tennis ball-size, locally-grown peaches for a couple of Euro.

And aside from devouring them greedily – but there are limits – I can’t think of a better way of using this bounty than by transforming it into delicious peach chutney.

Here’s a recipe I blogged back in July 2012 – but nb one thing: you’ll need to devote an hour of your life to making this, because once it’s on  the stove and bubbling away, there’s no nipping off to phone a friend, or switching the TV on.

As I didn’t make especially clear first time round, you do need to hang around the kitchen, stirring the simmering gloop fairly frequently to stop it sticking and burning.

If that happens – bin the chutney and bin the pan too.

The former will be inedible; the latter uncleanable.

And now…

Home-made peach chutney and a wedge if strong Pecorino cheese. Delicious !

My Original Recipe

I’m in the enviable position of having a peach glut.

For the first time, the yellow peach tree in our orchard has produced a crop worthy of the name. Big, fat, fragrant, juicy peaches, with velvety crimson skins.

Then on Saturday, my friend Nico presented me with another couple of kilos.

(In England, we used to dump unwanted runner beans on unsuspecting friends. Here, it’s peaches.)

I’ll yield to nobody in my love of peaches – especially slicing a ripe succulent yellow one into my last glass of red wine at the end of a meal. (Not sure if that’s an Italy-wide custom, or just an Abruzzese one) – but while my orchard peaches are obligingly ripening in easily-edible stages, Nico’s gift needed immediate attention.

I’m not a big fan of peach jam. On the other hand, peach chutney seemed an especially good idea.

But all the recipes Google produced involved assorted mixtures of peaches with onions, sultanas, garlic, chillis, even – God help us – green peppers. I wanted a peach chutney that tasted of peaches. And nothing else.

Here’s the recipe I came up with. It’s quick, easy and delicious. The quantities given below will make a couple of good-size jars:

David’s Fresh Peach Chutney

– about 1.5 kilos of fresh, ripe peaches
– 200 – 225g of white sugar
– 125ml of cider vinegar
– 1 level teaspoon of Mixed Spice

I used mostly yellow peaches and just a couple of white ones. Using only yellow would be fine; but think using only white wouldn’t give as good a result.

Don’t bother peeling the peaches. The skins melt into nothingness during the cooking process and give the chutney a gorgeous red glow.

Chop the peaches into smallish pieces and put them into a large saucepan. Throw away the stones.

Add the vinegar, white sugar and mixed spice. Decided against using brown sugar as its flavour would have been too pronounced. Start with 200g of white sugar – granulated or caster; doesn’t matter which. Taste the chutney halfway through the cooking process. If you’d like it a little sweeter, add an extra 25g.

The Mixed Spice was an experiment that worked extremely well. I used the Schwarz brand, which contains cinnamon, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

The ginger and cinnamon gave the chutney a delicious residual warmth, while the other spices imparted a gentle background fragrance that really brought-out the flavour of the peaches.

Cider vinegar’s a must. Malt or wine vinegar would be far too strong.

Bring the peaches, spices, vinegar and sugar slowly to the boil. Simmer gently for about half an hour, stirring frequently to prevent the mixture sticking to the pan.

In the meantime, fill two large screwtop glass jars to overflowing with boiling water. Flip the lids over and fill those with boiling water too. Leave for 10 mins. This process sterilises the jars and allows your chutney to keep safely.

Your chutney will be ready to bottle when most of the liquid given off by the peaches has evaporated and it’s reached a fairly firm consistency.

Using oven gloves to hold the hot jars, pour away the water and leave the jars upside-down for a moment or two to drain.

Carefully fill the jars with your chutney mixture to within 5mm of the top.  Immediately screw the lids on tightly.

Filling pre-heated jars with near-boiling chutney and immediately sealing them will create a vacuum as the chutney cools. Your chutney will keep happily like this for about a year – but put the jar in your refrigerator once it’s opened.

You can eat your chutney right away – as I did with a leftover spoonful or two and some very strong Pecorino Romano cheese. But it’ll taste even better if you leave it to mature for a month or two.

It’s truly delicious. Hope you enjoy it too !

Second Thoughts…

Why did I buy peaches this year instead of using home-grown ones from the orchard ? Good q…

Answer is that for reasons best known to itself, the peach tree decided to self-thin its crop this year, so we only got a bit over a kilo. And as the fruit was its normal juicy succulent self, I wanted to eat it, rather than cook with it.

And another thing…

After the original post, I got asked to recommend a wine to go with the chutney.

Answer: None. The vinegar content kills any wine stone dead. Or nearly any wine. A young, rough red would be OK. But a bottle of English IPA or strong Belgian lager are even better.

Since the original post, I’ve tried tweaking the recipe a little – most notably with a whisper of fresh chilli – but I always return to the original.

Personally, the more simple a recipe; the more it relies on the freshness and quality of the ingredients – the more I like it, and the more I try to replicate this in my own cooking.

That’s not to say of course there’s anything to stop you experimenting however you want. But there’s a world of difference between adding an ingredient to make something genuinely ’better’; and, just for the hell of it, to make it ‘different’.

Let me know how you get on !