Monday, August 02, 2010

Peaches, Peaches, Peaches

You remember this part of "Forest Gump?"

Right now, that's me, except with peaches. OMG.

I've made pie. Cobbler. Milkshakes. Smoothies. Daquiris - oh my!

I've boiled. And blended. And purayed. Chopped and infused various adult beverages. And I'm not quite half way through the darn things. I'm happy to note that the *ahem* digestive side effects from eating too many blueberries do not apply to peaches. (Good, 'cause THAT was... disconcerting.)

Not one to suffer alone, here's a closer view of making my own peach leather AND my first ever attempt at canning.

First step: sorting the peaches by my feeble ability to tell ripeness.

Some were perfect just to snack on, or for immediate use in milkshakes and smoothies.

The steps begin the same way for most of the processing. Step one of these recipes is always "peel and slice peaches" like it's really THAT easy. Three hours later, I've got peach goo in my eyelashes and my kitchen may never recover. You'd think there'd be some way to phrase that to warn a person what was coming! Sadly, they are correct in that the easiest way to peel a peach is to boil it for a while, shock it in cold water and then scrape the VERY slimy skin off the peach. These peaches were not as ripe as they could have been. The good part was that I had a couple of weeks to dawdle around and get them processed. The bad part was that they weren't as sweet as last year's peaches, and the skins did not just slide off most of them. It was a battle. So far, I think I'm winning but the war is yet over.

So, boiling:

Blanching (or shocking):


At this point, we have options, depending on what we're doing. I tackled peach leather first so that is where we go next.

Cut up in blender: (I love my blender. That thing could chew up a car if I asked it to, and - best part - it's got low, high, off instead of 40 buttons whose function completely escape me. LOVE my blender.)

My bananas were REALLY dead, so the first batch was only peaches and honey in the blender.

Make very sure that you have oiled the trays to the dehydrator 'cause this stuff is STICKY. I used a light coating of Pam and then smeared it around for a while with my finger to make sure every spot was covered.

About 10 peaches mostly filled my blender. For the second go-round, I also added one ripe banana per blender-full. (Best is about one day past when you want to eat it, for me anyway. And it makes a huge difference - with banana tastes much better to me than without.) I have six trays for my dehydrator, but one of them doesn't have the fruit leather plastic tray. For the first batch, I used a piece of parchment paper (also oiled) and it worked fine. It took approximately 3.5 - 4 full ladles of puray to fill each tray, and each blender full filled 3 trays. When I got overenthusiastic on one tray, I used a turkey baster to suck it up and move it.

I set the temperature at 135 degrees and let it go. This dehydrator is several years old so that may have something to do with it. Also, I'm in the South in the summer so the humidity is hovering around 85% but these took all of 18 hours to dry all the way. (When it feels dry to your touch and there are no shiny spots, it's done.) Once the peach leather was done, I ripped it into pieces (each approximately 3" x 4"), piled them up about an inch high on waxed paper, wrapped them, put them in a ziplock freezer bag and put them into the freezer. They'll keep pretty much indefinitely in there.


I also filled ice cube trays with puray and froze them. They're living in my freezer in a bucket waiting for a daquiri party. There are about as many peach daquiri recipes as there are people who drink them out there. If you would like help getting started, here's a good one:

(Note: I use 2 cups of peach puray cubes instead of the 1 cup of peaches and 1 cup of ice, and I'm out of brandy so I skip that part. Don't buy superfine sugar, just put the sugar in the blender first and pulse it a few times. Presto! Superfine sugar!)

1 cup frozen peaches
1/4 cup lime juice
1 1/2 ounces light rum
1 ounce peach schnapps
1/2 ounce apricot brandy
Dash of pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 cup crushed ice

Combine the peaches, lime juice, rum, schnapps, brandy, vanilla, and sugar in the blender until smooth. Slowly add the ice with the blender running and process until smooth. Serve in a chilled glass.

Makes 1 serving.


And for my next adventure: canning.

First up: Peach jam with brown sugar and rum. I found the recipe online here, and (being me) altered it slightly.

The boiling, shocking and peeling remain the same. Then I cut up the peaches and put them in a large bowl. I wanted 12 half pint jars, so I used approximately 36 peaches. (Figure 4 medium sized peaches in a pound, and some of mine were a bit scrawny so I went a bit over. I might have snacked a little as I worked too.) I worked in batches, boiling about 7 peaches at a time. I cut them up in a size similar to that for an apple pie. My reasoning was that there were a few peaches that I cut bad spots out of and then peeled without the boiling - I cut them up more finely in the theory that they'd all get done about the same time. I didn't have light brown sugar, so I used dark. And my lemon juice came from a bottle in the fridge.

It was getting late, and I was getting tired, so my measurements got a bit fuzzy at this point. (Also, I subscribe to the Swedish Chef cooking methodology. Bork! Bork! Bork! So all measurements are approximate!) AND, calculations were involved as I ended up with 11 cups of peaches. *sigh* So, 3.67 cups of brown sugar, 11 tablespoons of lemon juice, and somewhere around 0.75 cups of rum (Captain Morgan's spiced rum) went into the bowl with the peaches. I stirred it, covered it and left it on the counter while I went to bed.

The most important part of canning is preparing the jars. No sense in wasting all that effort and potentially poisoning yourself if you can avoid it. I'm still working out how my new dishwasher works, so I washed the jars, lids and rims by hand in hot soapy (yay, Dawn!) water. Then I put the jars into the water canning pot, and the lids into another small pot of water on the stove. I boiled the jars for about 20 minutes, and the lids for about the same. I left both in the hot water until my jam was about ready to pack and then I pulled the jars out and set them on a towel covered TV tray right next to the stove.

(The water bath pot is HUGE and ate two burners of my stove. This is the first time - possibly ever - that I've had all four burners on at once.)

The next day, I put the peaches on the stove and brought them to a boil while my jars and lids cooked away on the other burners.

The recipe says to cook until the peaches become translucent. I have no idea what they're talking about - that never happened. I cooked them until even the biggest chunks were soft and cooked. Then I added 3.67 cups of granulated sugar and boiled it rapidly. BE CAREFUL! This stuff is like napalm and it spits! (Only two of the burns from the flying jam bombs blistered...) I tried two or three times to get that "wrinkle, not run" thing that they talked about and it didn't really happen. I used a digital candy thermometer and went up to 225 degrees for a while, got sick of being spattered with burning pain and called it done. I decided that it looked too chunky to be proper jam, and REALLY wished for an immersion blender. Then I pulled out my potato stomper and squished the peaches 'till it looked more like jam to me. I let it cool on the back burner for a couple of minutes and then stirred in about 0.75 cups of rum and let it boil for two minutes.

Then I used a ladle and the funnel and filled the jars. I had exactly enough for 12 half pint jars. It's better to be lucky than good, I think.

From there, I wiped down all of the jar lips and then used the handy dandy lid grabber magnet that came in the canning set (with the funnel, jar grabber, and air pocket destroyer thing) to snatch the lids out of the hot water and drop them on each jar. Then the rims went on - using towels to keep from burning myself even more. Then all the jars went into the water bath.

The recipe says to process for 15 minutes, but all of the others that I looked at online (and there were MANY) all said 30 - 35 minutes, so that's what I went by. I started the timer when I noticed the water was boiling, so they did process for a bit longer. Then I checked them when the timer went off and the damn water wasn't boiling. I had other things to do, so I got ready to go, turned the stove off on my way out the door and let them sit in the water bath overnight. The next morning, I pulled them out and put them back on the towel covered table and let them cool completely. All 12 jars sealed, so that made me happy.

Walmart sells the pretty quilted half pint jars and the normal ones for the same price and the pretty ones come with a nifty little label. So, if I do this again, I'm going for the pretty ones.

All of this effort is SLOWLY paying off.

Adventures in canning spiced peaches to follow.

1 comment:

fajar nugraha said...

i like all