Thursday, August 26, 2010

Peachy Keen

I got a bee in my bonnet about doing some home canning. I had, of course, already successfully made orange marmalade and kind of failed at lemon curd, but I wanted to try to make REAL jam the REAL way. You know, like my mom used to. And my grandma. And people everywhere during the depression era.

Some would say that I was trying to save money. Others, that know me better, would say that I was just bored and looking for new recipes. Me, I just think I was trying to learn a new skill that I will (hopefully) use the rest of my life. So there.

I talked my mom in to giving me some of her old canning jars that have been in the garage for years. Some of them were usable, some were not (didn't have lids or were not "canning" jars). But I had big plans for canning, so I purchased some more. Luckily, everything related to canning is on sale right now at grocery stores, so I made a big purchase -- a 21 quart canning pot! It was on sale for $17 and I think a very worth while purchase.

Come October, apples will be cheap as dirt - or cheaper because Mom and Dad will be trying to pawn off their excess on me (and I will like it). So, first off, I decided on apple butter. An old roommate of mine had a quart of the stuff when we moved in and we devoured it. Hopefully I'll be able to get her mom's recipe (hey, J, can you hook me up?). But for now, I decided peaches were in season and would be just as delicious.

Last weekend when I was camping (but that's another post) we drove in to Naches to visit the farm stands. I ended up with 10lbs of peaches in the car for a measly $7! Not sure if it was because it was closing time on a Sunday afternoon and they were trying to get rid of their produce or if that's really just how cheap peaches are at fruit stands in E.Wa. I had a day and a half left of camping, so the sat in my car making it smell divine until I got home. Then they perfumed my "Costco closet" until I wrangled up a friend (BLee) to help with the process.

The recipe calls for peeled peaches, so we did what Alton Brown told me to do when peeling a lot of peaches (you know I always listen to Alton, he's so.... scientifically proven), put them in a hot water bath for a minute and then an ice bath. The skins just slid right off!

After peeling,you place the peaches in a bowl of water and lemon juice to prevent browning. We did this, but in the next step it doesn't say whether they should be drained before boiling or not, so we went with no in an effort to decrease the moisture that would later be cooked away in the oven.

Our peaches took about 2 hours in the oven to reach the correct "mounding" state, then we hot water-bath canned them so we didn't have to store them in the fridge. We multitasked by making bluebarb jam while it was in the oven, but that's another post...

Simple Peach Butter
Tasty Kitchen

10 lbs peaches, approximately 25 medium peaches
5 cups sugar
1 whole lemon, juiced

Skim peaches by immersing them whole into boiling water for 1 minute.  Remove them into a bowl of cool water.  While peaches are cooling, place 2 cups of water and juice of 1 lemon in a large bowl.  This will prevent the peaches from browning.  Peel and pit the peaches, placing them in the lemon water.

In large pot, crush the pitted peaches 1 cup at a time using a potato masher.  Keep track of the number of cups of peaches you crush in the event you need to adjust the proportions of sugar to fruit.  Many recipes call for a ratio of 1/2 cup sugar to 1 cup crushed fruit.  The sugar here is reduced for a fruitier tasting butter.

On medium heat, bring the crushed peaches to a boil, being careful not to scorch them.  Add the sugar and bring back to a boil.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  When the peach mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and transfer 3/4 of the mixture to shallow baking dishes (13 x 9 works fine) and place in the preheated oven. Stir the butter every 15 minutes.  As it cooks down, add the reserved peach/sugar mixture.  When the butter mounds nicely in a spoon, it is ready.  This will take 1-1 1/2 hours depending on the moisture content of your peaches.

When the butter is at the correct consistency, hot-pack or bottle in sterilized glass containers.  Once cooled, store in the refrigerator.  Makes 12 half-pint jars. 

To Can: Sterilize clean jars in hot water for at least 10 minutes. Place lids in hot water bath for 5 minutes to activate sticky stuff.  Just prior to filling, remove jars from water.  Fill with a sterilized ladle and funnel. Clean the rim of jar with wet paper towel to remove drips.  Dirty lids won't allow a proper seal in the hot water bath. Remove lid from water bath with lid lifter and place on cleaned jar.  Screw on lid band to finger tight. Place filled, closed jar in hot water bath. Bring bath to a boil and boil for ten minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes.  Remove jars from bath and let sit for 12-24 hours in cool, draft-free location.  Check seals and reprocess if lids pop back up when pressed with finger. 

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