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Peachy

After last week’s blueberry sadness, I convinced the family to go peach picking over the weekend even though I knew I would not have much time to process them.

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We got four half bushels of peaches, which is roughly 180 peaches. I know. We meant to only pick two baskets, but that just took about five minutes with all four of us picking. It’s a lot of peaches, but everyone loves having these peaches in the winter when summer seems like another world away. So, we put other things off and buckled down with our peaches this week.

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Have you ever had a peach fresh off of a tree? It is a sublime eating experience. This year, since we went a week or two earlier than usual, the peaches were smaller than softball sized, but still delicious. And beautiful.

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The boys were a huge help this year with the processing. Look how big they are getting!

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With their help, we put up 16 quarts of peaches. If you look carefully, you’ll see one quart that’s leftover from last year. It’s a sorry sight. Over the year they slowly turned brown, but despite appearances, they tasted fine. This year, I added a teaspoon of lemon juice to each jar before processing, which I hope will keep them from getting that color. I’ll report back to you next year and let you know if it helped. For the peaches, I used a recipe from Food in Jars. The only changes I made were quartering the peaches, which helped us fit more in each jar and only adding one tablespoon of bourbon to each jar.

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We also made 6 quarts of dried peaches, a batch of peach butter, and a batch of strawberry peach jam. I think we are all set now for peaches in the winter. Yay! I feel so much better about winter this week than I did last week. Believe it or not, all of that took care of all but about a dozen peaches. They will become a cobbler tonight or tomorrow, I think. Happy summer, everyone!

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Stuck in Summer

Last week, we started school. Our first day of school looked like this.

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Those smiles lasted for most of last week. One of them faded on Friday.

Still, it’s a new week and still a fairly new school year. We’re just getting past the introductory reviewish-type things and beginning to get into the meat of some subjects. All of our sports activities have begun, and other lessons and extracurricular activities are just getting ramped up. Despite all of this, it still feels like it should be summer.

Partly, it’s the weather.

But, it may also be that we went peach picking and still have a heap of peaches to devour.

Peaches are a definitely a summertime fruit, and as long as we have peaches, it will be still summer in this house. I’ve made a lovely Johnnycake cobbler from Baking with Julia. This is one of the recipes I missed with Tuesdays with Dorie while we were on vacation.

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Just ignore the fact that it is getting too dim to take really good pictures after dinner. That cobbler just screams summer, no matter the lighting situation. It was delicious warm from the oven, but could have used more fruit underneath.

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I also tried doing some little baked peaches with an almond crust from Ripe by Nigel Slater. Don’t be fooled by its humble appearance, we loved these and they were super simple to make. You can find one version here. I added some crystallized ginger to the almond mixture, which added a nice kick.

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Oh, I almost forgot, I also made a few of my peach crumb buns. Summer is not summer without these in our house. One of these days, I’ll get around to writing up a recipe for these. Um, maybe next year.

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I still have a few peaches left. Some of these are destined to be bourbon peach butter to help us remember summer in the middle of winter because, despite the weather forecast of 90 degrees for this week, I know that autumn will be here soon. However, while there are ripe peaches in the house, it will still be summer here.

A Postcard

I am being held prisoner by on vacation with the peaches.  It started out really sweet with pies and butters and bourbon.  Now it’s all turned to vinegar with Peach Salsa.  Recipe here.

Today, they are all about the condiments.  I will have a plethora of condiments when this day is over and I hope to break free  go back to my regularly scheduled life.  Wish me luck!

Bourbon Makes Everything Better, Part 2

I don’t know about you, but we are already counting the days until our summer break, well, at least, I am.  This can be a trying time of year.  The weather is getting warmer, but the allergies keep us inside.  We’ve completed all of our “requirements” schoolwise for the year, but I still have 6 weeks of instruction left in at least one subject.  There are finally good looking strawberries and asparagus at the store, but not much else.  I have gone to the store several times in the last few weeks, hoping/searching for some good veggies and fruit to bring home, but have been disappointed every time.  The apples and oranges are past their prime.  The berries have not fully come in yet and forget stone fruits.

Then I remembered some jars of peaches that I put up last summer.

Last August, after we went peach picking, we had an overabundance of peaches and I decided to can some.

It was an ordeal.  Lots of boiling water.  Slippery peaches.  Sticky syrup.  I only managed to make four jars before I called it quits.  Then, I stuck them in the back of the cabinet and just let them sit.  Every time I looked at them I was a little afraid.  I’m not really sure why.  I guess I had visions of rotting fruit or mold or something.  It’s not that I haven’t canned stuff before, but I dunno, I just had a bad feeling about it.

Well, after yet another disappointing trip to the grocery store last week, I decided to get out a jar and have a try.  Actually, to be honest, I made the husband try it.  Ever since that time over a dozen years ago when I ate some bad cheese that I couldn’t tell was bad (and then got really sick), the husband has become the official taster.  I fished out a piece of peach and gave it to him.  When his eyes lit up, I knew they were good.  Then I tried them and Wow!  They were good.  They were better than your run of the mill canned peaches and not just because we picked them and canned them ourselves.  Do you want to know why they were so good?

I’ll tell you why.

Bourbon.  Yes.

I followed this recipes from the New York Times for brandied peaches, only I didn’t have any brandy, so I subbed in bourbon.  And boy, does that really take these peaches to another level of yummy goodness.  They are not overtly boozy, but they had just enough kick to make you want to eat the whole jar.  And the boys loved them.

We had them with some plain greek yogurt and granola and it was delicious.  They would be really good with ice cream or, if you really want to accentuate the bourbon, with some bourbon whipped cream.  I will most certainly be making more of these when we go peach picking this year and I won’t be making four measly jars, either, even if I get steam burns.  It will be worth the pain to have these peaches in the dead of winter or in the spring when we are longing for summer.

Peachy Keen

Well, now.  I bet you’re wondering what in the world I did with all those peaches after I got them home.  This is where it turns into work.  Most of it is fun work, but sometimes, it gets a little tiresome.  Ripe peaches do not wait for you like apples can.  If the peach is ripe, you either have to eat it or do something with it.

The first thing we do is sort them.  We always try to get a mix of peaches that are really ripe and almost ripe.  Otherwise, I would go crazy trying to not waste them all.  We’ve developed a pretty good system over the years to help us minimize peach waste.

On the bottom of the picture are peaches that are a little under-ripe.  They can wait a few days to be dealt with and we usually leave them on the floor in a corner.  The basket in the middle holds perfectly ripe and relatively blemish free peaches.  That basket goes into the fridge.  At the top is a basket of peaches that must be dealt with immediately.  Tomorrow, they will have started to rot.  They have bruises, cuts, or little blemishy spots.

It’s always a little hard to come back from a hot morning peach picking and then have to deal with them.  This time, with the weather being so good, you would think that I would have had more energy to deal with them.  Well, I might have, if I hadn’t had to make a dessert for the church lunch the next day.  When I agreed to do the dessert, I thought I would have more free time than actually happened.  So, I had to bake first.

I baked two cakes, one came out really well, the other was not as I expected.  The cake looked lovely coming out of the oven, but then fell behind my back and turned into a rectangular hockey puck.  Aaarrrgh!   This caused a little angst and I had to make do with it, because, really, I just could not make a third cake.  I tell you this because I don’t want you to think that everything I make turns out perfectly.  It. Does. Not.

Anyway, I still had a whole basket of peaches to deal with!

Last year, I took up canning after a 10 year absence (hmmm…my eldest is 9.  Do you think there’s some correlation there?)   I made lots of peach jam.  And then we all decided that we don’t like peach jam.  I’m not really sure what it is.  The husband says it’s the smell.  It’s true, cooked peaches smell ….  different.  Whatever the reason, I found myself trying to get ride of last year’s peach jam a few weeks ago.  However, everyone likes strawberry jam.

So I made Peach-Strawberry Jam

I used a recipe from Sarabeth’s Bakery.  It was an easy recipe and it made a lot–two things I really appreciate in a recipe.  The recipe instructions said to simmer the jam for 40 min and I did it for about an hour.  It just seemed a little too runny after 40.  We all agreed, it was really tasty.  E thought it tasted more of strawberry than peach and the husband said there was a honey-like flavor, though there is no honey in the recipe.  All I have to say is, I would be very happy to have this on my toast anytime.

Stay tuned for more peachy adventures….