Crud, I started this post before summer was over and here it is, autumn already. Happy Autumn, folks!
I love fall, but I’ll miss summer and one of my favorite things about summer — all the yummy, fresh, local produce. Never fear, summer fruits are still to be found. The fresh local ones will be gone very soon though! Around here, this weekend will be the last for pit fruits like peaches.
Luckily, I can take some of summer’s fresh fruit with me into fall by making macerated fruit. These juicy morsels stride the line between fresh fruit and preserves like some kind of zombie fruit. Living and dead. Summer and Autumn. Maybe I should call it Zombie Fruit? I think I will. The yummy goop doesn’t smell anything like zombies. As far as I know zombies don’t smell peachy, but the macerated raspberry juice can look kind of like blood so there’s that.
Like jams, jellies, and pickles, a lack of free water and a high concentration of sugar (or salt or acid like vinegar) actually helps prevent or slow the growth of mold and bacteria. Check out the science behind it here at wisegeek.org. That’s part of how jam came to be — folks used the process as a way of preserving their fruit harvest. But even great jam tastes like jam and not so much like fresh fruit. So without cooking or freezing we can keep some of that fresh-fruit taste in the fridge for weeks (or sometimes even months) by making macerated fruit in sugar. Even with the added sugar, the juices and wee morsels of fruit are softened but manage to keep a lot of the fresh fruit taste since it isn’t exposed to heat.
All it takes is fresh fruit and sugar and a refrigerator and, for some fruit, a little bit of a product called Fruit Fresh. Spices can be used too. Note that this will work best if you use the FULL amount of sugar. This isn’t the time to watch carbs. The sugar draws the water and juices out of the fruit and is a critical part of preventing nasties like mold and bacteria growth. While it will take some time to completely dissolve without heat, it will eventually dissolve though it may take a week. If a small amount doesn’t dissolve it will settle to the bottom where you can scoop it out when you’re done with the rest of the goop and add it to hot tea or oatmeal.
Zombie Peaches (aka Macerated Peaches)
1 cup fresh peaches cut up
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (preferably raw sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoon Fruit Fresh
The peaches should be cut in to bite-size pieces or medium-to-thin size slices to allow the juices to flow. Be sure to cut out any bad or bruised spots. You can leave the skin on (wash really well before slicing) or you can remove it.
Mix the Fruit Fresh powder into the cup of sugar. Using a clean, sanitized mason jar put a layer of the sugar mix in the bottom of the jar. Spoon a layer of sliced peaches over the sugar. Add another layer of sugar mix over the peaches. Repeat until you’ve used all the peaches and sugar or until the jar is full but not overflowing. Finish the last layer with sugar so that the peaches are covered. Put the lid on the mason jar and allow the sugar to dissolve in the peach juice. The sugar will draw the juice out from the peaches and then gradually dissolve. There will be a lot of juice! This can take quite a few days (even a week) since we’re not using heat to speed it up. Air from between the peach pieces and granules of sugar will slowly bubble out. In the first few days, stir the sugar up from the bottom once or twice per day to help it along. (Lick the spoon. It’s yummy.)
Alternative method: mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl then spoon into mason jars. Then follow as above, stirring regularly. I find it less messy to do the layers in the jars.
Store covered in the fridge for weeks.
We spoon the mix over ice cream, pancakes, shortcake, or fruit salad. Use the syrupy liquid to flavor beverages. Sometimes we eat some on a spoon ’cause it is sooo good. While obviously sweeter than fresh fruit, it retains a lot of that fresh fruit taste and nutrition that is usually cooked out during canning or making jams. This also makes a great start to jam or preserves so you can also cook it down later and can it later for even longer preservation. You can also freeze it later too.
variation: Spiced Zombie Peaches
Same as Zombie Peaches, above, but add:
1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
Mix cinnamon with the dry ingredients and layer as above. Cinnamon does more than just add flavor, it also suppresses bacterial growth so it can help the concoction last even longer. It does taste like cinnamon, obviously, so you gotta like cinnamon. 1/8 of a teaspoon may not seem like a lot, but the juices and sugar will draw out the flavor and you will definitely notice it.
Zombie Raspberries (aka Macerated Raspberries)
1/2 cup raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
Put a layer of sugar in the bottom of a mason jar. Then add a single layer of raspberries, then another layer of sugar. Repeat until you’ve used all your ingredients or until the jar is full. Try to finish the last layer with sugar so that the raspberries are covered. Since we aren’t cutting up the raspberries, press lightly on the top to squish the raspberries a little. This will help get the juices flowing. Cover and store in the fridge, stirring occasionally, as the sugar draws out the raspberry juice. Scientifically the solution is trying to reach a balanced concentration of sugar and water. Juices flow out of the fruit through osmosis. This reduces the free water in the fruit which slows spoilage when kept in the fridge. Keep stirring periodically until the sugar dissolves. It can take several days.
Store covered in the fridge for weeks (up to a couple of months). We spoon over ice cream, pancakes, french toast, shortcake, or even fruit salad. I use the syrupy liquid to flavor beverages. This also makes a great start to jams, preserves, or even cobblers which you can cook later.
You can use the same process with other types fruits too. For really juicy fruit, like nectarines, you’ll want to use the larger amount of sugar (like Zombie Peaches) while fruits with less water content, like blackberries, use less sugar (Zombie Raspberry recipe).
Note that this process doesn’t preserve the fruit as thoroughly as jams, so it must live in the fridge. It will, however, last a lot longer than keeping plain fresh fruit. I’ve had a couple of jars last almost a year. I’ll warn you right now, too, that there can be a small amount of fermentation. But even if fermentation starts, it will stall out with all that sugar and the refrigerator will keep it to a minimum. So you won’t end up with much of an alcohol content — about as much as a ripe banana.
Fruit Fresh is a product usually found near the mason jars and other canning supplies in a lot of grocery stores. It’s a powdered mix containing mostly citric acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) which help prevent oxidation, so Fruit Fresh keeps fruit from turning brown. It’s really helpful for peaches, apples, and other fruits that turn brown quickly once you cut them. It’s like lemon juice but without adding any extra liquid or lemon flavor. It also ups the acidity so it may help to preserve the food some just like lemon juice or vinegar. It can also affect the taste so keep that in mind. This is usually fine with foods that work well with a little tartness, but you’ll want to be careful with food like bananas or avocados.
Note that this yummy fruit goop isn’t shelf stable so you’ll need to keep it in the fridge. You can also freeze it or can it later following typical canning protocol for food safety. As a general rule, if something goes wrong and it smells bad or tastes bad or it ends up growing mold then don’t eat it. If that happens, it means you should use a higher sugar-to-fruit ratio for future batches.
Here’s the process in pictures:
The last two photos were taken after several days of sitting in the fridge and stirring periodically. Remember ALL the juice you see in the jars came from the fruit. I didn’t add any water! So don’t throw that juice away, use it, drink it, mix it into stuff. It’s crazy yummy!