It’s that heavenly time of year when peaches, plums and nectarines finally ripen, after spending the entire summer soaking up the sun. Late-summer treats like peach crumble, plum sangria and stone fruit salads make the transition to fall a little more palatable. Savour the last of summer with stone fruit that has been ripened at room temperature; this will give you the best texture and firmest skin. Once you smell the sweet aroma of ripe stone fruit, you can store them in the fridge for a few days, or try these tips:
Freeze them. Wash, cut and remove the pit so the fruit will be ready to use once thawed. Freeze flat on a sheet tray until the fruit is firm, then portion it out into whatever quantities you'd like. Put each portion in a separate freezer bag so you’ll only have to thaw what you need. Fruit should keep well for about six months in the freezer.
Make compote. This is a favourite for fruits that are starting to fade. Cook 4 cups of fruit with ½ cup of sugar on the stove top until the sugar has dissolved. Add in 1 cup of liquid (we like to mix orange juice and wine), a pinch of orange zest and cinnamon and simmer until the fruit is tender but not mushy. Slowly add in a slurry of 1 tsp corn starch and 4 tsp cold water and stir until the compote thickens. Eat this yummy sauce on pancakes and French toast, ice cream or pork chops; it’ll last for weeks in the fridge.
Dehydrate. If you have a dehydrator, you're already ahead of the game. Just wash, dry and pit your fruit, cut it into same-sized pieces, spray with lemon juice (totally optional, just keeps the fruit from browning) and then let the machine work away. If you don't have a dehydrator, set your oven on its lowest temperature, follow the instructions above and place the fruit flat on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake the fruit until it has a leathery yet pliable texture, turning the baking sheets every two hours. There's no exact recipe here, just make sure that the fruit is fully dried if you're going to store it for awhile. You can keep the dried fruit in an uncovered container for a few days so that any extra moisture can evaporate.
Infuse alcohol or honey. Infusing alcohol is as simple as pouring your favourite alcohol over ripe fruit and waiting a few days or longer, depending on how much flavour you want. Vodka is a clear choice here, but you can also experiment with more flavourful alcohols like gin or brandy. Use at least enough alcohol to fully cover the fruit so it doesn't spoil while infusing and strain the liquid once you're happy with the taste. Infusing honey is bit more work, only because you have to use dried fruit to prevent mould. (Don't worry, you can use fresh fruit to infuse booze because the alcohol prevents mould from growing.) Infuse your honey for about a week and strain it once you're happy with the taste.