I never fail to get a bit down & out when Sept 21st (the autumnal equinox) rolls out annually. Days officially (and from the planetary perspective) become shorter than nights, Coats get yanked out, the frantic search for a matching pair of warm socks from the sock drawer and before you knowing the Daylight saving weekend is upon you. You may gain an hour that day, but it seems to be a terrible compensation for the fact that it gets dark at 6.00 p.m and even that gets progressively earlier until Dec 22.
I've spent the summer playing with peaches, in fact, two Bushel's worth. Smoothies, jams, salsa but the best of them went into making a preserve of a different kind - Varatti . You see, the inherent tropical weather in the Indian subcontinent, especially in Southern India, meant that fruits would spoil rapidly and canning was not a method of preservation employed in traditional cuisine. The preferred method was to cook the fruit down to evaporate the water content and preserve it with a liberal coating of ghee (which was added to the mashed fruit until it began oozing out of the thick pate). The most popular candidates for this kind of jamming were of course the native fruits, viz, Ripe mangoes and Jackfruit.
Given its ethereal aroma and the 'custardy' texture so reminiscent of mangoes, peaches were a perfect fruit for making traditional Indian style preserves. As with making jam in the traditional way, it is a labor of love and time, lots of it, but in the end, you're left with a lot of perfectly portioned jars to savor and/or gift (as I did, I carted about half a dozen bottles to India share with friends and family)
|Yep, there are other fruits being jammed & canned here in the pics, to be blogged about in later posts!|
Peach Varatti: (Makes about six 8.0 oz and three 4.0 oz jars)
25 - 30 peaches (really ripe ones), enough for 20 cups of puree
1/2 - 3/4 cups ghee
3.5 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon powdered cardamom
1/2 cup fresh extract of ginger
To prepare the ginger extract, puree about 1/2 a cup of peeled & chopped ginger root with as little water as needed. Squeeze and strain out the liquid in a cup and allow to stand for about 15 minutes.
Wash the peaches, and peel the skin off. Cut off the flesh and discard the pits. Puree the fruit.
In a heavy bottom pan ( an enamel coated 5 quart chicken fryer works great), add 1/4 cup of melted ghee and add the puree. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to little above a simmer (medium low). Cover with a spatter guard and allow the puree to cook down to about 1/5 of its original volume. You can add the puree in batches, if you prefer, instead of the whole quantity all at once. It takes up to 3 hours to reduce, keep stirring occasionally just to make sure that the bottom does not get burnt, especially as the mixture thickens down.
Once the puree has reduced, stir in the sugar, the remaining ghee and the cardamom. Gently decant the ginger extract, discarding the white starchy residue at the bottom of the cup, and add it to the peaches. cook down on a low flame until the ghee begins oozing out of the jam (which, by now has turned into a deep brown color, for a lighter color, feel free to use white sugar instead) . Transfer into sterilized glass jars and can the bottles using the standard technique applied for other jams.
Store in a dark cool corner of your pantry at room temperature. I made my first batch in July, using the yellow peaches, and another batch last week using the milder white fleshed variety, my personal choice for flavor would be the yellow ones.
The varatti is divine when paired with a sharp cheese to make grilled paninis.
Using rustic Tuscan Pane bread, spread the varatti over one slice, layer with some sharp cheese (I used cheddar), add some fresh cracked black pepper,
Lightly brush some melted butter on the outside of the bread, grill the sandwich until the cheese melts and begins oozing out and the grill lines sear into the slices
and serve hot with a side of plantain chips!
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