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Frozen sliced nectarines

frozen nectarine slices

This, forgive me, was the least bad of a selection of really lame post title attempts to figure out what the heck to call this–starting with “peach pops,” which is not just awful but misleading. And kitschy. “Peach pops” implies that you’ve blended some artificially flavored peach iced tea mix with some horrid oversweetened commercial sludge parading as yogurt and frozen it in a pool partyesque popsicle mold–each pop with its own color wand– and posed the result on a slab of watermelon or something. Kind of a Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Real Simple, etc., cover shot.

Anyone who knows me or has ever looked at the photos on this blog realizes I’m not naturally good at cute food, to say nothing of garnishes. Occasionally I try, but I’m definitely not neat. Worse, when it’s hot I’m [even more] cranky and self-righteous about looks not being everything. And even when it’s not broiling out I really detest all the condescending pinkness and tealness attendant on women’s homemaker magazine covers.

So this is not about peach pops. It’s about frozen sliced nectarines–real ones, even. And nothing but.

I’m all too aware that many readers are still suffering blah, spongy peaches this summer, and I still don’t have any good answers for you, other than the ones I came up with when I wrote the original post about it: pick only peaches that have a good smell and are not rock-hard when you buy them, try ripening them in a window for a couple of days, maybe in a paper bag, and if that doesn’t work, cut up the parts that are semi-okay and microwave them with some sugar and lemon juice and be willing to eat them cooked.

Here in Southern California, for a wonder, our US-grown peaches and nectarines are finally pretty decent. And decadent when fully ripe. Improbable as it would have seemed to me a few years ago, when I couldn’t get decent peaches or nectarines for love or money, I now have the opposite problem–too many all at once. It’s a problem I can happily deal with.

Freezing slices of nectarine, as the very uninspiring but at least unkitschy title implies, is probably too simple an idea to even consider a recipe. (See the photo above if you doubt me–this is not a glamorous-looking or stylish item as shown.) Granted, frozen bananas are pretty simple and they count as a recipe, especially if you stick a popsicle stick in them and cover them in chocolate. And then roll them in crushed roasted peanuts. Or coconut. Or pretzel dust. Or crushed peppermints. Or whatever.

But nectarines 1. don’t go with chocolate (per Alice Medrich in Bittersweet, and I agree) and 2. don’t have the classic shape for a popsicle-ish dessert the way bananas do. The best you can do if you’re eating nectarines frozen is probably to turn them into some kind of sorbet or granita, which might look prettier but  defeats the purpose of not fussing because it’s too hot outside.

So they won’t win James Beard awards, they won’t make the cover of your favorite foodie magazine. There’s no garnish unless you’re the garnish type, they don’t require a fancy blender or freezing mold (although you could…) and you don’t have to stick a popsicle stick or toothpick or anything into the slices–unless you want to. They just taste good. Is that enough justification for a food blog post? Not sure anymore. But I hope so.

It started in June, right before we were about to go east for a week and I had way too much produce in the fridge. I ended up throwing a lot of stuff in the freezer in microwave containers or ziplock bags and hoping for the best–bunches of herbs, a pound or so of blueberries, some lemons. And several nectarines, which I washed and sliced up first.

I’d never frozen fruit by itself before, and unfortunately at some point in my ambitious youth I had read how to do it properly, officially, in the scarily comprehensive The Joy of Cooking. I debated following its time-worn advice to scald sliced fruit for 30 seconds or so, plunging the pieces into ice water and draining before freezing… I have mentioned–often–how much I hate waiting for a pot of water to boil.

And for my money, a cooked peach or nectarine has had all the wildness removed from it and you might as well just open a can of cafeteria-quality peaches and have done with it. So I decided that scalding was not on my list of things to do right before a cross-country trip.

The Joy of Cooking is full of advice like that. Also illustrations. And no matter how many apps they link to, homemaker magazines and web sites are faithful followers of old-fashion. You know what I’m talking about–I can envision the same damn baking sheet you can, dutifully lined with parchment paper or wax paper or plastic wrap, even more dutifully dotted with little wedges of nectarine and some toothpicks (pink, of course) stuck in them. Like little sailboats ready to freeze individually until hard and then gather gently in a ziplock bag. Does anybody really do all that? Really, the main problem is fitting any size baking sheet in my freezer. And then getting it out again successfully. Because it’s really not worth the swearing involved.

…If you actually manage to do this kind of thing without hating the recipe, the author and everything they stand for, I’m betting you also have one of those fancy aprons from Sur la Table or Williams-Sonoma hanging up next to an arty bistro-style chalkboard in your perfect gingham-print kitchen. Not that I resent you or anything, but your freezer has to be bigger, classier and a lot neater than mine. As must the rest of your kitchen be etcetera etcetera better than mine.

So I just washed and cut up the leftover nectarines and froze the wedges in a microwave container–ziplock baggies with the air squeezed out work too. I figured we’d be eating them soon enough–if it worked, it worked, and if it didn’t it would just be too bad.

When we got home a week later, it was pretty hot out. I reached into the freezer and bit into one of the nectarine slices to test without even thawing it first. It was just soft enough to bite into without losing a tooth, it was perfectly icy-cold, and because I’d frozen it pretty ripe but uncooked, it still had all its flavor. So all in all, I was incredibly glad I hadn’t bothered boiling water for any reason in pursuit of saving the extra nectarines.

If you should happen to have too many very ripe nectarines or peaches on hand and it’s blazing hot out, just cut some of them up and freeze them. The cold will stop them from overripening, obviously, but just as importantly, you can eat them frozen. Because they have a lot of sugar in them, they won’t freeze completely hard. And in this weather they taste divine.

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