When I wrote about my first little crop of Kreibich nectarines, about this time last year, my daughter had cut up all the fruits for a tart before I had a chance to play with them. This year the crop of small, white-fleshed fruits was much bigger, and I was able to make both lumpy and puréed nectarine jams, a nectarine-fig jam, and pickled nectarines. I’d like to pass on a few things I learned about this new cultivar.
First, the thin, bitter skins don’t slide off easily with a brief dip in boiling water, as peach skins normally do. I ended up peeling the fruits with a paring knife. For pickled nectarines, I wouldn’t bother with peeling at all next time. This would not only save time and trouble, but the hint of bitterness might pleasantly balance the sweetness and tartness of the pickles.
I made the puréed jam when I got fed up with peeling. After slicing the fruits and cooking them until they were tender, I passed them through the fine screen of a food mill before reheating it with sugar. This worked to eliminate the skins, but the puréed nectarine jam, like my beloved puréed pear jam, spattered furiously as I cooked it.
Fortunately, jam made from these nectarines, even when they’re puréed, becomes quite thick with just a minute or two of boiling. Are other nectarines so dense-fleshed? I’ve always assumed nectarines were as juicy as peaches. Because the Kreibich fruit was so sweet and dense, I reduced the amount of sugar in both the lumpy and puréed jams.
Something else remarkable about these nectarines is their color when cooked—neither white like the nectarine’s flesh nor peachy orange, but rosy. The color comes from the red pigment that’s around the freestone pit and just under as well as in the skins.
There’s one more thing gardeners should know about this leaf-curl-resistant cultivar: It can get leaf curl. My tree did, during this year’s wet spring. I will have to spray with lime-sulfur this coming fall and winter if I’m to ensure the tree’s good health. And maybe I’ll try neem in early summer to ward off the cucumber beetles, who once again marred the nectarines’ skins.
Here’s my recipe for—
Lumpy Nectarine Jam
2½ pounds peeled, pitted, and sliced Kreibich nectarines (see instructions)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup water
3¼ cups sugar
To keep the nectarines from browning, mix them with the lemon juice as you peel and slice them. I do this in a bowl, checking the weight occasionally with a kitchen scale. Stop cutting nectarines when you have 2½ pounds.
In a preserving pan, combine the nectarines and water. Cover the pan, and simmer the nectarines for 5 minutes. Crush them a bit with a potato masher or other tool, and then cover the pan again and simmer them a bit more, until they are quite tender. Remove the pan from the heat.
Add the sugar to the pan, place the pan over medium heat, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Raise the heat to medium high, and briefly boil the jam, stirring, until it mounds in a chilled bowl.
Ladle the jam into three pint or six half-pint jars, and process them as usual.
You could make a fancier jam by flavoring it with, say, ginger, cinnamon, or rum, but the heavenly aroma of Kreibich nectarines needs no adornment.