Did you go to the farmers market last weekend? Did you buy too much stone fruit because they were giving out free samples and you did not know it was possible for anything to taste so good? We understand. You should do it all again this weekend, too, because everyone deserves to make the most of peak stone fruit season. When given the chance to experience something this miraculous, we need to grab it tightly by the plums.
In the broader sense, the term “stone fruit” refers to any fruit with a hard pit in the center. But while some varieties are only ever imported from abroad, many types, like peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, and nectarines, are grown more locally, and when they’re at their peak—like right now—they’re practically falling right off the tree and into our hot little hands. Here are some simple ideas for taking those already delicious fruits and making them even more exciting.
The most perfect way to eat any stone fruit that’s at the peak of its natural abilities is 100% plain, because we simply cannot improve upon that which Mother Nature hath created. If your fruits aren’t perfectly ripe when you bring them home, leave them on the counter; if you refrigerate them too soon they’ll become mealy. Wait until they’re as ripe as you like them, then store them in the fridge in a loosely sealed bag. You can try to save them for breakfast, but you may not be able to wait that long. They are delicious when they are so sweet and so cold.
The obvious suggestion of what to do with a glut of seasonal fruit is to turn it into jam. But before you order yourself a big case of Ball jars, ask yourself: How much jam do you really need? Sure, you could give away your excess jam as gifts, but then you’ve given up all your precious summer stone fruit with little left for yourself. Do you really like other people enough to do that?
Another downside to jam is the fact that it’s about 60% sugar. The high sugar content is what makes jam inhospitable to most microorganisms, meaning the sugar serves more of a preservation purpose rather than lending a lot of flavor. Jam can be a great way of salvaging middling fruit, but when we’re talking about summer stone fruit at its peak, it’d be a shame to drown out all that gorgeous flavor with sugar. Compotes, meanwhile, can be sweetened as much or as little as you like.
Stone fruit compote doesn’t really require a proper recipe: simply chop up your fruit (no need to peel), throw it in a saucepan, add as much of your sweetener as you see fit (whether that’s sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc.), and toss in some spices, if you’re into that. Cook over high heat until it begins to bubble, drop the heat to medium-low, and let it simmer while stirring occasionally until it thickens to your liking.
Once it’s cool you can store it in a jar in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you’ve made a lot of compote and you’d like to make it last for many months to come, package it in ziptop bags or small freezer-friendly containers, then shove them in the back of the freezer, where they’ll stay good until next year’s stone fruit season.
Trifles are one of the world’s simplest desserts: layer a bunch of stuff together in a glass, and... well, that’s it, really. A stone fruit trifle works best when the fruit is macerated first. To do this, cut it into large pieces, toss in a bowl with a tiny bit of sugar, and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Next, simply follow this recipe, layering whatever fruit you’ve got with cubes of pound cake and a basic whipped cream.
I know, I know. The task of “fermenting” stone fruit sounds like a big production—but honestly, it’s not! It takes about as much time and effort as marinating meat to throw on the grill. Speaking of which, fermented stone fruit is exceptional on simple grilled proteins like chicken, pork, and fish. Follow this recipe, swapping out the berries with sliced or roughly chopped stone fruit.