Tuesday, July 20, 2010


With just a few weeks left of peach season left in middle Georgia I'm feeling a special sense of urgency about getting enough to complete all the peachy things I'd like to put up before our state fruit vanishes until next year. Peach salsa was a huge hit, and so Mom and I have decided to make a double batch to put away in quart jars with a few alterations---maybe an onion with more "oomph" than the Vidalia, definitely more jalapeno, maybe a smidge more cumin, a slightly heavier hand with the cayenne... We'll also need to freeze a bunch of slices for smoothies or other emergency canning ideas.

This summer I've made 4 batches of peach jam for keeping and giving. The first was from a clingstone variety called Springprince. Admittedly, I was a bit overwhelmed with what to do with an entire box of peaches, and found myself flummoxed after peach icecream, muffins, and a couple of cobblers. By the time I made jam the peaches were getting a bit too ripe, and the set ended up a bit soft. Still, the sheer rush of having a bunch of crystal jelly jars filling the shelves was fantastic--and then I gave them all away. And then I was sad because I had no more jam.

I drove out to the packing shed with my Mom and got a heavenly soft serve cone of peach ice cream and another box of peaches--this time, a freestone variety called Fireprince. I have loved these peaches. The flavor is fantastic and the jam is a brilliant color.

I make jam from a simple recipe which calls for a whole mess of fruit and way too much sugar. My friend will be glad to know that my next experiment will include Splenda.

Here goes:
4 cups finely chopped peaches
1 box of pectin (I used Sure Jell)
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
5.5 cups of sugar
1/2 tsp. butter to reduce foaming

As I was looking over the photos that I took for this post, I realized that a rather cute baby had gotten in the way of my photographic focus, and so there are some gaps in my process. First, I blanch the peaches for about 2 minutes, and then plunge them into a bath of ice water.

After they've cooled for about 2-3 minutes, the peach skins should slide right off leaving you with nice, naked peaches perfect for chopping. I put mine in the food processor and pulsed them which left me with four cups of a combination of puree, dice and some nice, chunky bits.

Next, you'll put your peaches in a non-reactive pot and stir in the lemon juice and packet of pectin. Add your butter, and then bring the mix to a full, rolling boil. When you've reached this point, quickly stir in the sugar. It really helps to have the full amount set aside and ready to pour in. You'll return the mixture to a rolling boil, and stir constantly for one minute, skimming off foam with a slotted spoon.*

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops.

Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner.

(Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 min. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. Remember to listen for the pop! pop! pop! of well processed jars. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

You'll end up with 7 pretty half pint jars of this gorgeous jam. I've also played around with making cute 4 ounce jars, but it seems like that's not quite enough and the pint jars seem a shade industrial for the average family although it'd make the perfect amount for the Linzer torte that I've got the itch to make!

*note to new "jammers": don't get too zealous in your skimming or you can lose a lot of what will be jam.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

10 things tuesday: things I love.

1. Thinking of last night, I love Belinda's Peach Salsa recipe and am thrilled with the 8 and a half pints I was able to preserve. This recipe has a "slow heat" and would be perfect with meats or just to dip insane amounts of tortilla chips into!

2. I love that my oldest son told me, "Life is about doing the helping of others." as I lingered over my email a few extra seconds while the baby cried. He's most assuredly correct, so I stopped immediately to soothe the little guy.

3. I love my milk glass fruit basket. It makes any table look so pretty even when it's empty.

4. I love making a coffee at home--the grinding, tamping, brewing, the steaming of the milk, and all of it straight into your favorite cup.

5. I love that one of my best childhood friends is in a band and has created this fantastic EP for free download.

6. I love how the baby is genuinely thrilled to wake up every morning--he coos and smiles and giggles in the most irresistible way.

7. I love that the baby loves to sleep late every morning!

8. I am delighted at how my little girl enjoys thinking of craft and kitchen projects for the two of us to pursue--today she wants to put something in the "teeny tiny" jars. We'll see...

9. I love how absolutely talented my husband is--he's singlehandedly turned a shell of a carport into an enclosed garage and beautifully trimmed the entire room with wood fallen in a storm.

10. I bow to the wisdom of gratitude and of the compassionate Tonglen practice.

Monday, July 12, 2010

wild apple butter

"Windfall: Function: noun; Date: 15th century
: something (as a tree or fruit) blown down by the wind

: an unexpected, unearned, or sudden gain or advantage"

I went to visit my sweet friend on St. Simons Island over the 4th of July weekend. As always, good times, juicy conversations, and rolicking laughter were abundant. Also in
abundance? Beautiful, small apples from my friend's tree. The best surprise was the bag of almost 10 pounds of apples that came to me after she had taken her little Westie on his morning promenade! The naive, yet ambitious canner in me decided to try for a batch of the richest, spiciest apple butter to rival even that which is spread on your raisin toast on a midnight run to Waffle House. (really. sort of.)

see those sweet, little apples?

Anyway, I've never really been good with a recipe, but I peeled every last apple, and then steamed them in the microwave with scant apple cider vinegar. Working in batches, I fed them through the food mill on my Kitchenaid mixer. I had forgotten how fun it is to watch the yummy puree plop into the bowl while the yucky pulp, seeds, and core head out the back door of the extruder.

the food mill is the neatest thing!

Some 80 ounces of puree later, I pulled out my crock pot and dumped every last bit of the apples in. I cooked the puree on high for one hour, and added a generous tablespoon of cinnamon, a heavy teaspoon of ginger, and then irresponsibly sprinkled nutmeg and allspice in unknown quantities over the apples. After one hour, I gave the apple butter a good stir, and then set the temperature on my slow cooker to low. I allowed the mixture to cook overnight, and then was thrilled to be greeted by the most fantastic smell in the kitchen the next morning.

As soon as the baby was settled in his bouncy seat, I got to the business of preparing the jars, lids, and water bath. When everything was ready, I carefully ladled out enough apple butter for 10 half pint jars--and just enough leftover to spread on toast! I processed the jars for 12 minutes, and then got to hear the glorious, "POP! POP! POP!" as they cooled on the counter.

The more I read about "windfall" fruit, the more intrigued I am. There seem to be account after account of produce going unclaimed. Now I'm starting to have fantasies of getting the call to dash off and rescue 15 pounds of ripe plums, the fruit of a mysterious blackberry patch or a tree full of Turkey figs in the middle of a city. Getting this bounty from my friend has just fueled the excitement, which, of course sort of reminds me of that scene in the movie Juneau when the title character sarcastically tells her stepmother to "Dream big!" upon hearing about her desire to have Weimaraners.

Maybe it's not dreaming too big, but there's something therapeutic and satisfying about "putting up" jar after jar of food. There's some base level feeling of security in knowing that (go ahead, dramatically put the back of your hand to your forehead.) your family will have food squirreled away.

What's next? Peach Jam. After that? Peach Salsa. Must make the most of the last few weeks of the season in middle Georgia. In the mean time, if anyone has a line on a tree of neglected something or other please let me know!