The Kreibich Nectarine Revisited

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.

Kreibich: A Nectarine for Damp Places

This young Kreibich nectarine tree has never been sprayed.

It’s hard to grow peaches and nectarines in the Willamette Valley. Because of the eight months or so of nearly ceaseless rain, the trees have to be sprayed against the deadly peach-leaf curl, and the spraying must be done at times when you usually can’t spray, because it’s raining.

I generally fail to spray, and I’ve had trees die for that reason. So a few years ago I planted a nectarine variety that’s supposed to be resistant to leaf curl. Discovered by Roland Kreibich in western Washington and available from One Green World, this new variety produces nectarines that are both small and late but also white-fleshed and deliciously flavored–except for a distinct bitter note.

Here’s my first crop of ‘Kreibich’. See the chewed spots? The damage was done by cucumber beetles, who were all over the fruits at harvest time. I’d kept the bitter-loving beetles away from the cucumbers this year by interplanting the cukes with marigolds. So apparently the beetles found a new source of embitterment in my young ‘Kreibich’ tree.

The fruit had to be used fast. The bitterness, I found, was mostly in the skins, which were ravaged anyway. So I’d peel the nectarines. Then they would be perfect for canning in syrup or, even better, for pickling.

But I went into town for a few hours, and when I got home I was too late. My daughter had turned the whole crop into a tart.

It was an excellent tart, actually. Although Becca hadn’t bothered to peel the nectarines, the sugar disguised their bitterness. And the spicy quince jelly with which she had glazed the tart complemented the smoothness and fragrance of the nectarines. After the first bite I stopped complaining that I couldn’t make nectarine pickles.

Little has yet been written on the ‘Kreibich’ nectarine, but a grower on Vashon Island, Washington, writes that early rains cause the fruits to split. I haven’t had this problem, perhaps only because September has been dry this year. I can’t swear to the worthiness of this variety after just one year’s harvest, but I have high hopes for next year. After another year’s growth, maybe I’ll get a tart and a quart or two of nectarine pickles besides.

UPDATE 2022: One year, before we sold the farm, our tree did experience fruit splitting, because of early rains. And in our last two years it also suffered some leaf curl. ‘Kreibich’ is resistant but not immune to that disease.