Just Peachy: Making the Most of Summer's Last Stone Fruit

This is the first in our newsletter series from StopWaste about delicious ways to use foods that might otherwise end up in the compost. You’ll also find food storage tips and a recipe from StopWaste in our new Fall issue.

What’s the taste of late summer? A sweet, juicy peach, eaten out of hand! Through September and even October, the season for stone fruit lingers in the Bay Area, with nectarines, peaches, pluots, and plums abounding at farmers’ markets and grocery stores. 

If the stone fruit you’ve bought is still pretty hard, allow it to ripen at room temperature. Can’t wait? To speed up the ripening process, place fruit in a brown paper bag, loosely roll the top closed and leave it on the counter. The bag traps the ethylene gas the fruits give off, which hastens ripening.

Sometimes, however, you may find yourself on the other end of the timeline, with overripe peaches or—certainly the worst—mealy peaches that don’t appear to have a drop of juice! Before you reach for the compost bucket, try blending them into smoothies, baking a peach cobbler, or slow-cooking them into jam. With jam, you’ll make the most of your fruit and maybe even preserve some of that delicious flavor of summer for the cold season.

Pectin-free Peach Jam

2 pounds of peaches or nectarines (mealy or overripe ok!)
1 pound granulated sugar
1 lemon, juiced

Optional: To skin peaches, cut an x in the skin at the top of each, then place into boiling water for about a minute (or longer for nectarines if needed). After cooling off a bit, the skin should loosen and slip off easily.

Halve and pit the peaches, then cut into pieces. Larger pieces will result in a chunkier texture. Combine the peaches with the sugar and lemon juice in a heavy pot, cover and let it sit for one hour. Stir well, then bring to a boil and lower to a gentle simmer. Let cook for about 60 to 70 minutes, stirring occasionally until the fruit mixture thickens and reduces. Once the desired thickness is reached, pour hot jam into clean, sterilized jars. Alternatively, just let it cool before refrigerating or freezing. And, don’t forget to compost your fruit scraps!

For more tips and easy-to-follow recipes that prevent food waste and make the most of food you already have, visit StopFoodWaste, a project by Alameda County public agency StopWaste.  

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Photo: Stefanie Pruegel