Monday, June 16, 2008

Just peachy

As you can see, I was busy this weekend. As I mentioned on Sunday, I didn't quite realize how many peaches had been delivered until I actually started working with them. Sure, the bushel of peaches looked pretty big, but nothing I couldn't handle, right? Oh, boy, was I in for it! The initial plan was to make one batch of peach jam and then peel the rest for freezing. One look at the freezer changed my mind and I quickly decided to can the peaches instead. But first, how about some peach jam! 

My dad seemed to be drooling over the idea of homemade peach jam and to be honest, it's my favorite, too! I had plenty of sugar, pectin, and (obviously) peaches to get through a batch. I started washing, peeling and chopping. I saved all the peels to nibble on this week (I just couldn't bear to put them in the compost pile. all the nutrients are in the peels, right?). Great. Four cups of peaches and 5 cups of sugar (it always gets me just how much sugar is in jam - YOW!). Before putting it on the stove, the recipe recommends adding a little lemon juice. As I understand it, this is to keep it from discoloring on the shelf. Rather than the lemon juice, however, I had read online that you can use either fruit fresh, or cheaper yet, crush vitamin C tablets into a powder and sprinkle over top the fruit. So mortar and pestle in hand, I began crushing some vitamin C. It only took a few of the pills (which is WAY cheaper than Fruit Fresh - for the price of one jar of Fruit Fresh, I bought 200 tablets of vitamin C). I sprinkled it over top the peaches, stirred it up and was ready to go. 

Then, just like with the blackberries, dewberries, and strawberries, I heated the fruit with the pectin to a boil, added sugar and again brought it to a boil, then loaded up the jars, adding the covers and rims.  The only difference in my process was that rather than doing the inversion method (where you turn the jars over for 5 minutes, then right side up to seal), I used the boiling water bath (boil them in large pot for 5-10 minutes). The reason being that since I was on my own this time, I wasn't sure I could move fast enough to keep the jars from contamination. Having a partner (or two or three) really is more fun and makes the process easier.

Anyway, as I was looking at the pretty jars of peach jam, I realized there just weren't very many of them. Daddy would surely come back for more (I tasted some and it rocks!). Perhaps I should do another batch. I mean, I had hardly made a dent in the box of peaches (I was at this point realizing just how many there were). So I hopped on my bike and peddled my booty to the grocery for more pectin, sugar, and jars. Let's do this! Two additional batches later, we had some serious peach jam. Oh yeah!

Surprisingly enough, although I had made a dent in the peaches, I still had well over half the box left. I was already exhausted, but I had all this hot water on the stove that I didn't want to waste, so I plowed right on into some canned peaches. Following the directions on the Pick Your Own website (this is a GREAT resource, by the way), I washed, peeled, and cut the peaches. Now, these aren't freestone peaches. The seed just wouldn't come out. So having to cut around it means I don't have the nice little slices you see in the cans of peaches at the store. But I'm eating these. Who cares what they look like!

So I prepared the syrup (aka sugar water) using the recipe for light syrup, let the peaches sit in the boiling syrup for a few minutes and then filled the jars. I was able to fill 4 large jars (that's them in the photo, on the right) with peaches before I was ready to boil the jars in the canner. Unlike the jam which only took 5-10 minutes in the boiling water bath, the canned peaches were to be boiled for 20 minutes. It took forever for all that water to boil, even though I had kept the pot covered  between uses to conserve heat), but I finally got it there and in 20 minutes, I had four beautiful jars of peaches. 

I feel kinda guilty having used so much energy to boil all that water, on and off, for the better part of the afternoon, but I tried to conserve as much energy as possible and even used the hot water to boil some of those carrots I picked up at the farmers market. Once the water cooled, Dave suggested we use it to moisten our compost pile. Great idea!  

Needless to say, by the time I finished, I was completely exhausted. My legs had given out and I was ready to collapse. But I have to admit, I'm amazed at all that I was able to do in just four hours: 11 canning jars of jam (various sizes), 2 plastic containers (from the extra little bit of jam at the bottom of each batch that wouldn't quite fill another jar), 4 jars of peaches, and some cooked carrots for dinners later this week. Oh, and I still haven't used all the peaches. I might try freezing some later this week.

All in all, things are looking just peachy. Hey, Dad. Want some jam?


EcoBurban said...

Sounds so yummy! Peaches are my #1 favorite fruit of all time. Next raspberries. And maybe blueberries... OK - All fruits! :o)

My kids like peach sauce - made like applesauce - over pancakes! I like it because it's pretty simple, just cut up peeled peaches (no worries about non-perfect slices here!) sprinkle with a little sugar and microwave, stirring occasionally, until it's chunky applesauce consistency.

I don't can (a little afraid of the process I think...) but this keeps well frozen in containers. I just take one out at a time and let thaw in the fridge. Delicious and much less sugar than covering pancakes with syrup!!

Green Bean said...

Holy cow. That's a lot of peaches. It sure feels good on the other side doesn't it, to see all those beautiful jars lined up in your pantry. Enjoy!

Laura said...

score! I will be using that resource when peaches come in season here... perhaps next month. I have memories of freezing thousands of peaches every summer as a child, but I do like peaches with my cottage cheese in the morning, so I will probably can more than freeze this year!

hmd said...

Yeah! I just finished bagging the peaches destined for the freezer. I'll deliver the last 1/2 doz to a friend and I'm all done (except for the eating part, of course)

eco 'burban mom - your peach sauce sounds really great! I have several versions of local pancakes coming up for One Local Summer in the next few weeks. I'll have to try that sauce since I don't have local syrup. Thanks!

green bean - You're not kidding. Although when I called my dad to tell him about all I had made, he said, "good, cause I'm going to get another bushel for you." Ahh! Looks like another peachy weekend. I'll probably freeze most of them though. We'll just have to make room. Freezing was SUPER easy. I just cut up slices, sprinkled them in sugar and a little vitamin C. and put them in a baggie. TOO easy!

fearlesschef - peaches and cottage cheese is a childhood favorite of mine and I can get cottage cheese from my dairy. I might just have to do that...

Theresa said...

Oh man, I'm drooling over here!

Melissa said...

wow that peach sauce sounds great! heather, I have to agree, the pick your own site is super helpful!

ilex said...

Wow, a most impressive canning feat, Madam. Your great-grandmother would be very proud of you.

Anonymous said...

I would love to have some if you have extra :) Peaches are my FAVORITE fruit! Because of that, I eat all my peaches and more. One time, I wanted to see how many peaches I could eat at one sitting - 7 big ones!!! But of course they were on the edge of coming back out and I had to lay on the couch for a couple of hours.

At least now I know my limit. How many jars of peach jam can I eat at one sitting? Hmmm...

hmd said...

I have to admit - they are really tasty. Now that I've recouped from that bushel, I'm looking forward to the next one! My dad just sent me a recipe for peach cobbler. Think he's hinting at anything?

ilex - who needs a great grandma to be impressed? My dad is about to fall off his rocker, he's so amazed. He keeps teasing me about how I'm becoming more domestic (trying to ruffle my feathers) but in the end, he's happy with whatever gets him peach jam and peanut butter cookies. :)

cindyw - I bet could match you on the peaches, but the jam? Pshew! That's a lotta sugar, girl! You could probably jog to my house with all that energy. Of course, then I'd be happy to give you some peaches :)

Sam said...

So yummy looking! I love peaches. It hasn't hit the markets here yet. Waiting...waiting.

Have you ever made jam without the pectin? Do you know if I can substitute another thickener such as agar, agar (to get a jellowy texture) or corn starch?

The strawberry jam that I made, I made only a small batch and just cooked it until it had the consistency of jam but wasn't sure if the pectin is something that is needed for large batches.

hmd said...

Beany - from what I understand, most fruits already have pectin, but sometimes it's not enough to get that "gel" of jams and jellies. The boxed pectin is the only thing I've ever tried, but I'm sure there are other methods. The idea behind using the boxed pectin is that it's the one way to be assured the jam will set properly.

Actually, I have made some jam without the pectin by mistake. It still gelled fairly well but was not as nice as the jam with the pectin. It was thicker than a syrup though. Unfortunately, I just had to throw some away because it's like the sugar had separated from it somehow. It was very grainy like the sugar had just been added - very weird. I don't know if that had something to do with the lack of pectin or not. Strangely enough only one jar was like this but it was after it was in the fridge for weeks so maybe it was just too old.

I recently watched a Good Eats episode on uTube. Alton Brown had a great episode (in two parts) about jam making and he explains how and why things work the way they do. He always seems to explain things in ways I understand. Here are the links:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Chile said...

Wow, lots of work. Hopefully you'll gradually forget that part and just enjoy the delicious flavors when you eat your peachy treats. (Damn, I'm drooling on my keyboard.)

hmd said...

Chile - as it turns out, I've already long forgotton the fatigue of that afternoon. I'm looking forward to my dad bringing over another bushel. This one I think I'll freeze. It was way to easy and I'm working towards making room in our freezer.

And of course, it's REALLY going to be worth it this winter! Yum!