Making the most of a great year for peaches: Spicy pork chops with balsamic peaches

by Terry B on July 1, 2009

Heat is optional, big flavor isn’t, when sweet, savory and a host of spices get together in Pork Chops with Balsamic Peaches. Recipe below, with some variations on the theme.

balsamic-peach-pork

Summer has barely begun and we’ve already had some stellar peaches. Fragrant, sweet, delicious, juice-dribbling-down-your-chin peaches. Nothing local yet, but just picked up at random supermarkets. To me, that’s a sign of more great peaches to come this season.

So when Hannah mentioned balsamic peach pickles in her comment on last week’s wedding food memories post, we were immediately looking for recipes. Not so much for making pickles from peaches [they do sound wonderful, thought, don't they?], but for tempering the natural sweetness of peaches with balsamic vinegar’s tartness. And when Marion turned up a pork recipe, my search narrowed considerably.

There’s something about the natural savory/sweetness of pork that plays beautifully with fruit. And I’ve certainly exploited it here, making everything from roast pork tenderloin with cherries or with pears and onions to pork chops with dried plums and even bacon marmalade sandwiches on pumpernickel.

These quick and easy pork chops not only make use of pork’s affinity for sweet flavors—they also take advantage of how well it works with big-flavored spices. In this case, chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper. The first two pack a little heat, but mostly just punch up the taste—and by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper, you can regulate the heat to your liking.

Pork Chops with Balsamic Peaches
Serves 4

For the pork chops:
1/2 tablespoon good quality chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper [I didn't measure this—use a generous hand]
4 bone-in pork chops, about 1/2 pound each
2 tablespoons canola oil

For the peaches:
2 firm ripe peaches, sliced [see Kitchen Notes]
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, preferably white [see Kitchen Notes]
a drizzle of olive oil, plus more for the pan
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper [or to taste]
1/2 cup sliced shallots [you can substitute onion, but shallots are better]

Prep the pork chops. Combine the chili powder, cumin, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Pat chops dry with a paper towel and season on both sides with spice mix, rubbing it into the chops. Set chops aside.

Prep the peaches. Place peach slices in a shallow bowl. If peaches are on the firm side of ripe, taste a slice. If it’s puckery tart, sprinkle on a little sugar, stir gently and taste again. You don’t want to make the peaches overly sweet, but just aim for balancing the tartness. Drizzle peaches with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and stir gently to coat. Sprinkle on cayenne pepper and stir again. Set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over a medium-high flame. Add canola oil, then add chops. Sear on one side for 5 minutes, then turn. Reduce heat to medium and cook until chops are just cooked through 4 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness. I covered the pan after turning the chops to retain a little more moisture. Transfer chops to a plate and tent with foil.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over a medium flame. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil and sauté shallots for a few minutes until they’re just getting tender and translucent. Add peach slices to pan and cook for just a minute or two until they’re heated through, turning them carefully. Transfer peaches and shallots to a bowl to stop the cooking process. Plate chops and top with peaches/shallot mixture. Serve.

Kitchen Notes

Peaches—skins or no skins? Many recipes for various treatments of balsamic peaches called for peeling the peaches. I prefer them with the skins on here. First, it adds another touch of color to the plate. More practically speaking, it makes the slices more durable during the cooking/stirring process—you don’t want to end up with peach mush. Oh. And the recipe produces more peach slices per pork chop than the three artfully arranged ones you see in the photo above. You can either arrange a few as I have here and serve the rest next to the chops, or you can pass the extras at the table.

Ripening peaches. If your peaches are less than ripe, place them in a brown paper bag and fold the top closed. Check them daily—in a day or two, they should be ripe. Why does this work? Glad you asked. When fruits begin to ripen, they release ethylene gas, which causes the cell changes in fruit we associate with ripening. According to Chow.com,  placing fruit in a loosely closed paper bag “traps the ethylene gas inside and accelerates ripening. Don’t seal the bag too tightly or use a plastic bag, however—if you trap too much moisture, mold may grow. If you really want to ripen things in a hurry, put an apple in the bag with your other fruit—they produce a lot of ethylene gas.”

Use white balsamic vinegar if you can find it. This is a purely visual choice. Regular balsamic vinegar will color the peach slices. That’s not as big a deal if you’re chopping the peaches as some recipes call for to spoon over the chops as more of a salsa. And if you can’t find white balsamic, don’t let that dissuade you from making this dish. I found mine at Trader Joe’s.

Variations on a theme. First, if you just don’t do pork, these peaches would be quite good with chicken too, preferably grilled. And if you don’t do spicy, try grilled chops seasoned with just salt and pepper, and instead of cayenne pepper, add some fresh chopped sage to the peaches at the very end of their cooking.

And finally, if you’re looking for yet another way to take advantage of great peaches this summer, try this arugula salad with peaches and goat cheese.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean July 1, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Great post. Pork is certainly versatile. Fruit, veggies, potatoes, mild, spicy, it doesn’t matter. It seems to go with everything. — Jean

Ashley July 1, 2009 at 10:30 pm

This it TRULY drool inducing! YUMMMMM! What a great post :)

Alta July 2, 2009 at 1:33 am

This looks really wonderful. I think I need to swing by the farmers market and pick up some Berkshire pork chops and peaches, and make this!

Carey July 2, 2009 at 3:55 am

I had to run out and get the ingredients to make this tonight- awesome! Thank goodness I have my trusty trader joe’s white balsamic always at the ready. The peaches were not quite ripe but sweet enough so I chopped them smaller and cooked slightly longer. I am enthralled by the possibilities of this. Mom suggested kebobs with small pork, med shallot slice and larger peach piece basted frequently with the balsamic – olive oil …
Thanks again for the wonderful combination…

Terry B July 2, 2009 at 4:20 am

Jean—And then there are all the varieties. Chops, roasts, tenderloins, ham, bacon, sausages…

Thanks for stopping by, Ashley!

Alta—My one encounter with Berkshire pork, in a sadly now defunct restaurant, was transcendent. Hope you like the recipe!

Carey—I love hearing from people who’ve actually made a recipe I post—especially when they like it! The kebabs sound like a great idea. I think I’d use regular onions, not shallots. Shallots tend to deconstruct much more readily than onions. In fact, pieces of red onion could be a very colorful addition.

Carey July 2, 2009 at 4:32 am

perhaps red pearls?
I know you’ll appreciate knowing that I’m scarfing up the left-over peaches with an extra splash of white balsamic and a dash of brown sugar. perfect dessert!

Pat July 2, 2009 at 1:41 pm

YUM – Terry, this sounds sooooo good. And thanks for the peach-ripening trick. I forgot about that one. I’m definitely trying this one…but with toned-down pepper.

Terry B July 2, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Honestly, Carey, I’d just go with Bermuda onions. You can peel off sturdy pieces to skewer—I fear the red pearls would fall apart in your hands as you tried to get them on the skewers. Also, I’d toss them with olive oil to keep them from burning on the grill. And yes, I totally appreciate your use of the leftover peaches. I just piled the extra slices onto our plates next to the chops and they got gobbled up, but the dessert idea sounds perfect! And Marion just suggested spooning those peaches over vanilla ice cream for dessert. Wow. I’m totally hungry now.

Thanks, Pat! When I made this, I used a generous 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and it gave the peaches just a nice, noticeable bit of heat without being fiery. But trust your own history with cayenne pepper as you season your peaches.

Susan from Food Blogga July 2, 2009 at 6:51 pm

I agree. The contrast between the savory meat and the sweet fruit is tantalizing.

Hannah July 2, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Thank you for this – it was a new and lovely way to combine peaches + balsamic!
I made it a few nights ago, and doubled the peaches so I could eat the majority of them on their own, so delicious. I actually ate some atop plain Greek yogurt the next day, sounds weird, but it cooled down the cayenne just subtly enough.

Barbara July 3, 2009 at 12:53 am

Darn! I was thinking of making that delicious lamb recipe you posted a few days ago this weekend. Now I’m torn because this sounds fantastic. I love being able to use in-season fruits in interesting ways. I agree with you that fruit and pork is a natural. I sometimes even throw a little apricot preserves into a pan I’ve cooked chops in, add a little stock and some salt and pepper and presto! But this sounds sooo much better.

Thanks!

Toni July 3, 2009 at 10:46 pm

I just heard a great news story this morning on NPR about peaches. Their discussion of the juices running down your arm made me salivate for these beauties! And yes, they’re a natural for pork. This dish looks beautiful – I’m sure it tastes equally as good.

Chip July 4, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Terry, I found myself just sitting staring at the image! Photo’s so good, I can practically smell the food!

Tasty Health Food July 5, 2009 at 8:31 am

I don’t eat pork, so I’ll have to try this with chicken like you suggested. Your picture looks amazingly delicious though!

Terry B July 5, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Hi, Susan! And the balsamic vinegar didn’t add a big puckery hit to the peaches—it just kind of tempered and deepened their sweetness.

Hannah—Actually, the yogurt sounds like a perfect foil for the peaches.

Barbara—Your trick with the apricot preserves sounds like a nice spur-of-the-moment way to add a sweet touch to pork.

Toni—And this really seems like it will be a banner year for peaches!

Thanks, Chip!

Tasty Health Food—Let me know how you like it with the chicken!

altadenahiker July 6, 2009 at 3:35 pm

I totally missed the marmalade & bacon on pumpernickel. That’s the kind of fare I grew up on, and no one would trade sandwiches with me in the lunchroom.

If I run many, many miles this week, that’s what’s for dinner.

Terry B July 6, 2009 at 4:01 pm

altadenahiker—I know! When I first heard about it being served in a New York City restaurant, it sounded like Elvis food to me. Apparently, though, it’s a Brit fave. And for good reason—it is soooo good!

katie July 6, 2009 at 6:22 pm

We’ve been getting wonderful peaches and nectarines for the last two weeks. Now, maybe I can stop just eating them and start using them in recipes…

cheffresco July 6, 2009 at 8:55 pm

This is my first time to your site – you’ve got some great looking recipes! The photos are amazing as well!

Terry B July 7, 2009 at 10:59 pm

katie—That’s always a problem, isn’t it? I had to guard the peaches I had ripening for this dish from the hungry hordes, myself included.

Thanks, cheffresco!

Mindy July 10, 2009 at 4:39 pm

This looks great! Peaches are on sale here right now, so I may make this for dinner tonight.

May March 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Just made this for my family tonight – it was a hit! It came out perfect and I couldn’t be happier. Great, great recipe. Thank you!

Luke April 30, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Just made this. It is unbelievably good. Gonna want to make extra peaches for sure. Thanks for an awesome recipe.

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