Agrodolce Recipe of Peaches and Chilis Fresno
Our palaces are like piano keyboards. The more flavor and texture notes we can play, the better the overall feeling. That’s why big festive meals of the year, like Thanksgiving dinner, are such a rich experience – every possible taste for the tongue, including lots of umami, all those varying textures to the touch, from mashed from chewy potatoes to silky yams to fibrous poultry. or protein.
The Italians, especially the Sicilian Italians, gave us a delicious and short taste match. It’s agrodolce (“sweet and sour”), its twin notes the acidity of vinegar or citrus juice and the sweetness of sugar or honey. Sour and sweet are two of the possible base tastes of the palate and they play off each other deliciously.
Often, an agrodolce is just the two together, like a thin sauce used to pickle or preserve. In Lombardy, in northern Italy, they do this with onions and serve them as a kind of condiment.
Sicilians cook a range of agrodolces. Waverly Root lists several in its “The Food of Italy”, including that for rabbit cooked in the town of Agrigento, in southern Sicily, does indeed sound appetizing: “The sweet element is made up of a mixture of honey and sugar, and the acid of a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice. It is served surrounded by eggplant, celery, olives, capers and toasted almonds.
Mark Antonation — who worked for years as a food and restaurant writer for Westword, Denver’s free weekly, and is now communications manager for the Colorado Restaurant Foundation — makes various agrodolces from overripe fruit ( sometimes referred to as “seconds” at the produce stand or farmers market). As a result, late summer is Antonation’s agrodolce sweet spot.
“It’s a great recipe for people who like to have fun in the kitchen,” he says, adding, “It’s a nice change from the usual canned food because it’s not super sweet.
“It’s kind of like ‘refrigerator jam’,” he says, “and it freezes well.”
The basic recipe for Antonation’s Agrodolce is extremely simple. Its base is 2 pounds of fruit and 1 cup of vinegar and sugar, all cooked together and thickened, if necessary, with fruit pectin. (When I tested the recipe here, I simply reduced the mixture to a slow, steady simmer for about an hour.)
Antonation offers variations or riffs on agrodolce, depending on the base fruit. For example, he makes a pineapple-poblano agrodolce that finishes “with a Caribbean-style flavor profile”:
1 whole pineapple, peeled and cut into small chunks, 4 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled and chopped, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger and several allspice berries (which he teases with a spoon before shaking). And, of course, the obligatory 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and sugar. For this pineapple-based agrodolce, he uses brown sugar.
“I add a pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons of powdered fruit pectin to all fruit-based ‘agrodolces,’ he says, “and then simmer them until the liquid thickens, about 45 minutes. Then I beat them all lightly with an immersion blender, so that some pieces of fruit remain whole.
Variations are possible even within an agrodolce recipe. For example, with the recipe here, Antonation writes, “Other types of peppers would probably be great too, although I liked the color and heat level of the Fresnos (quite spicy!). Roasted and peeled green Pueblo peppers would be excellent, I’m sure. If I had to guess, I’d think two big ones would be enough.
Agrodolce of Peaches and Fresno Chiles
From Mark Antonation, who writes that this agrodolce is “mild, tangy and spicy – great with fatty cheeses and charcuterie on a charcuterie board, or with pork chops. Would probably be great on a pulled pork sandwich. Agrodolce will keep for at least a month in your refrigerator.Makes 4 cups.
- 2 pounds very ripe peaches
- 6 Fresno peppers
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1-2 teaspoons fruit pectin powder (such as Sure-Jell brand)
- Pinch of salt
Peel the peaches (blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then cover them with cold water so that the skin slips off) and cut them into small pieces. Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers and cut them into thin rings.
Add the vinegar, sugar and pectin to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add peaches and chiles and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure the mixture does not come to a boil as the sugar could burn on the bottom of the pan.
Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes before pouring the agrodolce into 16-ounce jars. Put lids on the jars and put in the fridge. Let sit overnight or a day or two before serving.
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