Apricot Peach Fruit Pâté
Just as cheesemaking began as a means of preserving milk, putting up fruit conserves and pâté de fruit (fruit pastes) started as a way to store fruit that was otherwise perishable. Concentrated pastes (also called “fruit cheeses,” by the way) are natural sweets that, historically, were often presented at the end of a meal, which is possibly how they came to make cheese’s happy acquaintance. Quince became the most common fruit for paste making because of its heady aroma and high pectin content, which yields a firm, gelled texture. Paired with aged cheeses such as Manchego, quince paste (a.k.a. membrillo) is a great counterpoint of fresh acidity for the cheese’s rich and salty demeanor. That’s what a fruit paste does well; it provides welcome
refreshment, texture, and sweet acidity, much as plump grapes or soft-ripe Seckel pears do alongside a favorite wedge.
Mild yet tangy, this fruit pâté pairs well with soft and slightly aged goat’s milk cheeses.
Combine the apricot nectar and peaches. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the peaches are cooked through and soft. Cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch-square pan with parchment paper; coat lightly with neutral-flavored baking spray or oil. Pour the packet of pectin into a small bowl, and set aside near the stovetop.
In a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the apricot-peach mixture. Add 1½ cups sugar, the lemon juice, and the spiced rum to the mixture, and puree briefly.
Pour the fruit mixture into a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Cook over low heat, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Turn the heat up to medium, and place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan. Stir with a heatproof spatula, occasionally at the beginning, then constantly as the mixture begins to thicken. Bring the mixture up to 230°F. When the mixture reaches 230°F, reduce the heat to hold it there for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the pectin at once, bring back to a boil, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture immediately into the prepared pan, and tilt to spread evenly.
Let the jellied fruit rest for 3 hours or up to overnight on a cooling rack. Cut into desired shapes with a knife or cookie cutters. To coat with sugar, toss the candies in the remaining ½ cup sugar. Store in an airtight container at a cool room temperature or in the refrigerator if your house tends to be on the warm side.
TIPS for Successful Fruit Pâtés
Use a heatproof spatula to stir the fruit puree mixtures and prevent them from sticking in the corners of the pan, especially near the thermometer.
The temperature will hover around 210 to 220°F for what seems like a long time. Be patient; the temperature does rise quickly afterward.
The optional citric acid adds a little extra tartness to the fruit. If you don’t mind the flavor of lemon, you can substitute a teaspoon of lemon juice.
Coating the jellies with sugar is optional. But if you are coating them and they seem wet, let them sit overnight on a baking rack in a cool, dry place after tossing them in sugar. In the morning, you can dust them with another light coat of sugar.
Goat’s milk cheeses provided the easiest pairings with all the fruit pâté flavors. Chèvre was especially good, as was a slightly aged goat cheese such as Consider Bardwell’s Manchester.
MAKE A GIFT of homemade fruit pâté:
1. Cut the slab of gelled fruit into any shape with a cookie cutter
2. Add some sparkle by lightly tossing the pieces in sugar
3. Use a small clear cellophane bag, tied off with ribbon, to package your treats.
Written by Emily Gold
Photography by John Marolakos