The Fresh Sheet…Peaches

Summer is ridiculously abundant. The fruit literally falls off the trees – juicy, sweet and a bit messy. Kind of like how life should be. Just a few weeks ago, as I was diving into my first peach of the summer, I couldn’t help but remark at what a pure, unadulterated pleasure summer eating is. All of this produce from practically just down the road; so ripe, flavourful and perfect on its own. So perfect, in fact, you wish that feeling could last all year. We can help with that!

peaches in brown basket2 - resizedAnd peaches aren’t just a tasty treat; they are actually incredibly delicious medicine. Peaches are rich in vitamins A and C for healthy skin (good protection when the sun is shining!) and strengthening the immune system, they provide fibre to help keep everything moving smoothly and phyto-chemicals such as phenols that help fight inflammation. So much for thinking that healthy food doesn’t taste good. In fact, it’s crazy delicious.

Since peaches are but a blip in the annual harvest, it is a good idea to preserve some as soon as you get your greedy little fingers all over them. The local peaches won’t last much longer, so buy large! This recipe will make quick work of 5 pounds of deliciousness, which means you could buy 5 pounds for eating now and 5 for eating later. Moderation doesn’t apply to precious in season and highly perishable fruit. And peaches are so easy to preserve that even a newbie can do it. The bourbon was my idea; Heather isn’t much for boozy fruit. I am up for eating just-about-anything boozy. In moderation, of course! Here, moderation applies…

Bourbon and Vanilla Soaked Peaches
Fills 12, 250mL jars
If you have never canned before, read twice before canning once. It is far easier than you might expect but a few key tips will keep you on the safe side. This is a helpful guide to help get you started.

5 pounds ripe peaches, washed (should be fragrant and luscious but not mushy)
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 whole vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise, seeds scraped and pod cut into 12 pieces
Optional: 1tbsp bourbon per jar

Prepare canning jars and lids as directed by canning manufacturer and keep them simmering hot in the canning pot until ready to fill. You will need a jar lifter or slip proof tongs to handle the hot jars.

In a large pasta pot, boil water for blanching peaches. Prepare a very large bowl or another pasta pot with cold water and add the juice of a lemon for holding the peaches.

In a medium pot, bring water to a boil and add sugar. Stir and simmer gently until sugar is totally dissolved. Add vanilla bean scrapings, stir and turn heat to low to keep warm.

Score the bottom of each peach with a knife and carefully lower into boiling water. Blanch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, just enough to loosen skin. Place into lemon water with a slotted spoon until cool enough to handle. Repeat with all peaches – you can do them in batches.

Peel peaches and slice into hot canning jars. Add one piece of vanilla bean pod to each jar and add 1 tbsp bourbon if desired. Pour hot syrup over peaches, leaving 1/4-1/2 inch of headroom in jars. Use a wooden skewer or chopstick to remove any air bubbles from the jars. Tighten lids on jars (not too tight!) and place back in canner. Process, as per manufacturer’s directions, for 30 minutes. Remove to the counter and let rest undisturbed for 1 day. Seriously. Don’t touch them!

You will know they canned properly if the lid doesn’t give way; if it didn’t work, give peaches to all of your friends as they are totally safe to eat within a week or so (keep them in the fridge).

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Jam Session

I have a confession to make…I, Desiree, am a canning neophyte. I extol the virtues of making preserves to help others eat local throughout the year but I tend to buy my local conserves instead of “slaving” away myself. There are many reasons for this (none of them very exciting or compelling). For starters, I have been crammed into a tiny Vancouver apartment with my family that barely had room for my shoes let alone long term food storage. And I figured that, given my luck, I would somehow botch it and end up with a bunch of mouldy sludge. I also didn’t have the canning equipment (who has the space?).

So it was up to Heather to school me once again. She has canning equipment (really, just a large pot, an insert and some tongs…I could figure out where to store them) and the know how. We made a small, condo friendly batch – just two jars each! With the Local Food Challenge coming up, we were going to need some jam. We are allowed a couple of wild cards each day but I don’t really want to waste too many of them on spreadables.

As with all things I tend to avoid – exercise, tidying, phone calls – it was ridiculously easy once we set out to do it. I should know better. How many times do I chat with people who think they can’t cook for themselves because it is too difficult or they don’t have the time or the skill and I convince them that cooking from scratch is simple?

For someone who wants to get serious about local eating, jams and conserves are a great way to preserve the sweet summer flavour of fruit. We u-picked Heather’s favourite – the tayberry, a cross between a blackberry and raspberry. They have a slight tartness like raspberries, but with a juicier body like blackberries and they are oh so flavourful.Heather also got a handful of gooseberries in her CSA produce box, so we thought we’d whip up some gooseberry and tayberry jam.  Because it’s for our Local Food Challenge, we thought we’d go old-school and make the jam with just sugar and fruit, no pectin. It takes a little longer to boil but gooseberries are a good source of pectin ( a healthy soluble fibre to boot!), so adding them to a jam with other berries helps to make the jam thicker and add more texture. The sugar, however, is going to be a wild card for the day…..

Tayberry Gooseberry Jam

4 cups tayberries
1 cup gooseberries
3 cups sugar

To sterilize canning jars, boil 4 250mL jars in a canner (large pot) for 5 minutes. Boil lids separately. Handle with tongs…don’t touch! While jars are coming to a boil, prepare the jam. The jars need to be hot when you fill them.

In a large pot, mash half of the tayberries and gooseberries with a potato masher to break them up. Add remaining berries. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add sugar and stir to blend.

 

Bring to full rolling boil over high heat for 9 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour jam into four 1-cup (250mL) hot canning jam jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Cover with prepared lids; screw on bands, fingertip tight. Boil in water canner for 5 minutes.

Makes four 1-cup jars.

 

Be sure to leave jars, undisturbed for 24 hours to ensure that they seal properly. You should hear a nice pop to let you know the seal has worked.