Here in Northern California, August is wonderfully abundant in every way. The sunshine is plentiful, the weather is leisurely, and fresh produce is at its peak. Tomatoes, berries, peppers, basil, stone fruit...are all exploding from farms and gardens nearby.
How convenient for me that my newest obsession is canning! I adore the idea of preserving the harvest and enjoying the peak of the season all year long. There's something very comforting and satisfying about opening up the pantry and seeing jars of colorful sauces, jams & pickles. So far this year I've tried my hand at dill pickles, raspberry jam, apricot & vanilla bean conserve, blackberry jam, basil puree, and now peach compote. Most are pictured in the photo above. I know when I pull these out in the middle of February that I will be dreaming of summer once again and anxiously awaiting its abundant return.
I stumbled upon this recipe completely by accident. My intention was to create a peach conserve, which by my definition is essentially a jam without added pectin, just cooked long and slow to reduce and concentrate the fruit. I used my very favorite of all peaches, the elusive and fleeting, 'O'Henry'. They have the most 'peachy' of flavors, slightly acidic, not too sweet, firm yet juicy with an almost crisp skin. They're positively divine and I look forward to them every summer when they appear at the market for one or two short weeks. Because of their firm texture they didn't quite cook down as I had imagined so I ended up with a wonderful accident, a peach compote with chunky pieces of flavorful peaches in a vanilla and lavender syrup. I imagine serving this over ice cream (of course!), spooning onto a warm popover or a fresh buttermilk biscuit or serving with a sharp aged pecorino, my fresh thyme crackers, and a glass of Vin Gris.
If you can't find the O'Henry variety, use a yellow peach with firm flesh that's slightly underripe. Make sure whichever variety you choose has good acidity or this can become cloyingly sweet in a hurry.
Peach Compote with Vanilla & Lavender:
Yields 6, 1/2 pint jars
3# yellow peaches, firm flesh
juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
4 vanilla beans, split and seeds removed
1 TB lavender blossoms
1) Cut the peaches into 1.5" pieces and remove pits. Add the fruit, along with the remaining ingredients, including the vanilla bean pods, to a heavy 5qt stockpot. Heat, stirring occasionally, over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves and mixture reaches a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring every so often for about 30-45 minutes, or until the fruit is tender but still holds its shape and the syrup is reduced by half.
2) Remove the vanilla bean pods. Ladle the hot fruit mixture into sterilized jars. Return jars to canner and process for 12 minutes. Let jars cool completely at room temperature. Store in a cool, dark place up to 1 year.
*Alternately, you can skip the canning process and prepare the compote the same way. Just ladle the slightly cooled mixture into air tight storage containers and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 months.