Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Just Peachy

That's how I hope August will be.  I need peachy.  I can't say life gave me lemons in July, because I love lemons.  It was more like life gave me durian in July.  

But mid-July, I decided to go to one of our local orchards and get some fresh peaches.  I don't know why I thought I could pick up peaches on a Wednesday afternoon and have time to process them all when I was trying to get ready to leave early that Friday morning to spend the weekend at my dad's.  Before coming to my senses, I managed to get a few trays of sliced peaches dehydrated. 

The melon baller did a great job removing the stringy
 centers around the pit. I hated losing the color though.

Putting my knife skills to the test.  I think they're
about below average right now.

The plan for some of these is to go in some
instant oatmeal cookies using maple
and brown sugar oatmeal.

The rest were to become brandied peach jam.  I realized there was not time to accomplish this and rather than have rotten peaches when I returned, the peaches were pitted, sliced and frozen.  And that's the way they stayed until yesterday.  Yesterday I decided a bit of kitchen therapy was in order. 

I looked in several of my canning books for recipes and finally decided to combine a couple of them for what I wanted.  I would have preferred a pectin-free jam, but I wasn't interested in having the stove on that long.  It's still quite hot in Southern Illinois.  My problem with the pectin, especially low/no sugar varieties, is that the set of your final product is always a guessing game:  it may set perfectly, it may set too firmly, it may not set at all.  In this case, I think the set is a little firmer than what I would like for jam.  But I'm still happy with the taste.  For now, anyway.  Shae at Hitchhiking to Heaven blogged about some of her peach and bourbon jam that, after several months, had become quite thin and "tasted like a distillery."  I'll have to report back to you on mine.  (Speaking of reporting back, those mango tres leches cupcakes - never did work.  The milk mixture for soaking became too thick to be absorbed.  Disappointing failure.)

Pretty peach puree

After the jam, I still had some peaches left.  I considered pate de fruit, but humidity is a problem and I think the puree would be best with fresh fruit versus frozen.  I went ahead and pureed what I had left but instead of pate de fruit it's in the slow cooker with some maple syrup to hopefully become a maple peach butter.  Time will tell on that one as well.

I still have the maple peach oatmeal cookies to make, but I'm already scheming on going back to the orchard for another box of peaches.  I still like the idea of peach pate de fruit and maybe a peach/white wine jelly and some canned peach halves and . . . .

Brandied Peach Jam
This is somewhere between jam and preserves.  I considered adding a handful of currants and calling it a conserve.  It’s a franken-recipe cobbled from peach jam recipes in the Ball Blue Book and those included with Sure-Jell low/no sugar pectin.  Makes 6 – 7 half pint jars.

5 cups pitted, peeled, slightly crushed, fully ripe peaches **
1 cup brandy
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 box (1.75 oz) low/no sugar needed powdered pectin
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Prepare a water bath canner and seven half-pint jars, lids and bands before beginning.

Combine the peaches, brandy, lemon juice and pectin in a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium to medium-high heat.  Stir to dissolve the pectin and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add the sugars and return to a rolling boil stirring constantly.  Once a rolling boil is achieved, boil and stir for one minute.  (If the jam begins gelling before one minute, remove from heat at that point.)  Remove the pan from the heat and skim off any foam. 

Ladle the jam into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Place lids on the jars and gently screw on the bands.  Process the jars 10 minutes in a covered boiling water canner.  Remove the canner from the heat, remove the lid and let the jars sit for 5 minutes before removing.  Allow to cool completely, remove bands and test the lids to make sure they sealed.  Refrigerate any jars that did not seal.

Store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.  (A year is standard, but since this has less sugar it may have a shorter shelf life.)

**I was using peaches that had been frozen and thawed, so I used 4-1/2 cups with their juice.  I also saved the peels from the peaches to freeze and use later in peach jelly to give it a beautiful color.

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