Peach Elderberry Chutney: A Farmers’ Market Experiment

I hate canned peaches. Hate ‘em. My whole family can tell you the story about when Barbie was trapped in a high-chair as a toddler and coerced into eating (home-) canned peaches with the “You can’t get down until you eat those, young lady!” approach. Spent hours, or so I hear, in that damn high chair.

Mom finally relented and cut the requirement down to one small section, which I swallowed whole, tears streaming down my face (and hers, so rumor has it). I was one stubborn baby and canned peaches in heavy syrup are slimy.

Today, though, as a grown woman long past such traumas (eek! A can of peaches!) I enjoy fresh peaches straight from the farmers’ market. Not those hardballs shipped long distances while still underripe, mind you—they never get any riper and they’re a waste of chewing effort.

But fresh, juice-dripping-down-your-arm peaches, maybe with a little whole cream on top if I’m really indulging? Yes, please and thank you kindly, ma’am.

Last Saturday's haul from the farmers’ market included peaches. I had peach chutney in mind because I love tangy foods and with enough spices I can trick my mind into thinking of this as something other than (ugh!) canned peaches.

You never know what new food will turn up at the market. Today it was elderberries. I’ve only thought of them in connection with jam and wine (and have never had either), but here they were: itty-bitty-teeny-tiny berries in little clusters similar to champagne grapes (adorable).

I’m a sucker for cute food so some elderberries came home with me. Turns out those babies are tart. Mouth-puckering, in fact, and not something I’d throw in a bowl with the fresh blueberries I also got. But hey, chutney is supposed to be zingy and I’m making chutney, so let’s experiment!

I had one fresh peach chutney recipe that sounded really, really simple but didn’t say anything about being safe for canning, and another recipe for a much larger quantity of peaches than I had. 

The latter also included raisins and as I believe I’ve mentioned before, I don’t much like raisins. So I created a mash-up, used the seasonings from the big recipe but cut them down to one-third since that seemed about right for the number of peaches I had, and let elderberries play stunt double for the raisins.

I’m no canning expert so I rely on The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest and the Food in Jars blog to guide me.

Both stress the importance of sufficient acidity in foods you want to can in a boiling-water bath the way I do in my very ordinary speckled canner (versus the much more expensive All-American 30-Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner I don’t yet own but which is clearly worthy of Title Capitalization Status).

Peaches are on the high-acid fruit list and may be canned on their own with sugar; I figured that with the addition of vinegar I was safely on the high-acid side of the pH meter.

I haven’t eaten the chutney itself yet but I tasted a little of the syrupy goodness left over in the bottom of the pot. This is going to be some good chutney. And it’s not canned peaches.

Peach Elderberry Chutney
Makes 5 pints

8-9 large peaches
½ c. (or so) elderberries (could use huckleberries, blueberries, or something else that strikes your fancy, or leave them out)
¾ c. diced red onions and shallots (could use a regular onion—I had these on hand)
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (don’t touch your eyes after that step!), or 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 c. brown sugar
1-1/2 c. red wine vinegar (I used ¼ c. raspberry vinegar as part of this; could use apple cider vinegar)
2 t. mustard seed
½ t. ginger paste (comes in a  jar); could substitute minced fresh ginger in which case I might bump it up a bit to 1 t.
½ t. cumin seed (or ground cumin if you don’t have the seed)
½ t. coriander
¼ t. cinnamon
¼ t. cloves

Get all the boiling-water canning stuff set up first so the water will be hot by the time you're ready for it. Sterilize jars, heat lids, etc.

Set up a big kettle (non-reactive finish) and throw these ingredients in as you get them ready. Working over the kettle with the peaches allows you to catch all the juices.

Peel, pit and dice the peaches. Strip the itty-bitty-teeny-tiny elderberries from their stems and doublecheck so you don’t make Stem Chutney. Dice onions/shallots. Add sugar, spices and vinegar and stir it all together.

Cook all this on the stove over medium heat approximately 30 minutes, stirring regularly, then follow the canning instructions for boiling-water bath processing. Process 20 minutes.

Happy chutney!

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