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).

Local Food Challenge…Gorgeous Local Salads

Summer is so full of flavour! Markets are bursting with an abundance of garden-fresh vegetables and fruit, richly colourful and at their nutritious peak. This is the perfect time of year to enjoy gorgeous salads made with seasonal and local ingredients.  

Local Field Spinach with Chevre and Peaches

1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 large bunch of local field spinach, washed trimmed and torn into bite size pieces
1 peach, diced (or 1 cup of blueberries to keep it 100 mile)
1/2 cup chevre, crumbled (Happy Days, Goats Pride, Little Qualicum and Farmhouse are all local choices)
1/2 cup hazelnuts (Poplar Grove Hazelnuts will be at Trout Lake Farmers Market next on August 27!)
a dash of local sea salt (Vancouver Island Sea Salt available at Marche St George)

Saute onion in butter in a small skillet over medium heat until soft and transparent. Allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, arrange spinach between two salad bowls. Top with peaches, crumbled chevre and hazelnuts. Once onions are cooled, add to salad and finish with just a touch of sea salt.

Fancy Option! If you have a couple of extra minutes, grill the peaches. Simply halve and brush with a bit of butter or oil and then place, cut side down, on grill for 3-4 minutes until grill marks appear. Then slice and enjoy the gorgeous caramelized flavour.

To dress the salad, try a drizzle of oil (wild card alert!) and your choice of either local balsamic (from the Okanagan) or a cranberry juice reduction (to keep it 100 mile). To make the reduction, simmer 1 cup of Bremner’s cranberry juice until it reduces and add 1 tbsp of local honey to sweeten. For a creamy dressing, sweeten plain yogurt with a little bit of honey and stir in a bunch of chopped fresh herbs like dill and basil.

Panzanella Summer Salad – the Local Version

This is Heather’s favourite summer salad. She gets gorgeous tomatoes in her CSA produce box, so she’s been thoroughly enjoying this salad each week. With a local spin, we’ve skipped the capers but kept the olive oil as a wild card as it’s what adds loads of flavour. Instead of the usual red wine vinegar, we used a locally made balsamic or berry vinegar.

½ of a 100 Mile Loaf, cubed and toasted
3 large or 9 smaller tomatoes, cut into wedges or simply chopped
½ cucumber, chopped
¼ cup sweet red onion, diced
¼ cup bell pepper, roasted and diced
3 tbsp really good olive oil (if you’re going to wild card it, make it good!)
2 tbsp berry vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (or chopped)

In a serving bowl, gently combine toasted bread cubes, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and roasted red pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together berry vinegar, olive oil and garlic. Drizzle over salad, add fresh basil and toss gently to combine. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the bread cubes to soak up the tasty dressing.

Enjoy!