Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Garden Abundance-Peaches

I purchased a bushel of peaches and had to deal with them pretty quickly in order to avoid losing any to spoilage. Over the years, I have found many different ways to fix them that are popular with the family. I thought I would share what happened to our latest purchase.

Peach Butter
Fruit butters are popular around here. Particularly on toast or a biscuit warm from the oven. To start my peach butter, I pulled out my largest crock pot and started washing fruit. I cut the peaches in half and removed the pit. I also removed any spots that have gone bad. I placed the peaches in the crock pot until it was overflowing, skins and all. I cover and turn the crock pot on low. At this point I move on to another project. When the peaches have cooked for about half a day, they are soft and ready to puree. I place my immersion blender in the bottom of the crock and blend it till smooth. Then I continue to cook on low until it is thick and mounds up on the surface with a spoon. You can add sugar if you like, but we like ours pure and simple. I process this a few days later in pint jars, when it's thick the way we like it.

Canned Peaches
Wash the peaches and cut in half. Remove the pit. Cut off blemishes. Dunk the peaches in boiling water for about 30 seconds and then remove to ice water. Save the water you blanched in,keeping it hot on the stove. It will be staturated with peach juice by the time you are done and will be used up. Set up your canning station, preparing quart jars, rings and lids. I put a 1/4 tsp of vitamin C(ascorbic acid)in the bottom of each hot jar to prevent browning, slide the skins off the blanched peaches and place the skin in a pot on the side. I pack the jars tightly with the peaches. Using the water I blanched the peaches in, I cover the peaches to within 1/2" of the top. I remove all the air bubbles, wipe the rims, seal and process. At our elevation, I process for 35 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Peach Jelly
I take all the skins that I reserved, add any remaining peach water and set on low on the stove. If I don't have any peach water left, I add water. This will simmer all day, producing a nice peach juice that will make peach jelly. This liquid will be strained in cheese cloth after simmering for several hours. Usually I freeze the strained juice and make the jelly in the fall when I have more time.

Dried Peaches
I wash and remove the pits of the remaining peaches. I take each half and dip it in a solution of ascorbic acid and water to prevent excessive darkening of the fruit. I place the peaches cut side up on dryer trays and start them at about 125 degrees. Once they have been in about an hour, I raise it to 155 until they are almost done, then lower to 140 to finish off. Sometimes halfway into the drying, I remove and cut them into smaller pieces. These are good in granola or oatmeal on a winter morning. They are also good in muffins if you cut them even smaller. The reason I start with halves is that I want to keep all the juice. Every cut causes more juice to come out of the fruit. By leaving them in halves, I keep all that flavor. Once they are dry on the cut part, you can turn them over to finish drying.

There you have it...my peach assembly line! When all is said and done, I have an abundance of safe, tasty, summer bounty in my pantry for those long winter days. How do you use those extra peaches in the summer?

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