Friday, September 5, 2008

Just Peachy!

Beautiful, sweet peaches in January! That's what I kept telling myself as the sweat beaded on my forehead as I stood over the stove processing the jars of peaches while the temperature in the kitchen rose to 37.8°C!

Peaches are one of my favorite fruits and the season is sadly so short so I always make sure to take advantage! We've been eating Peach & Blackberry Crisp, tossing sliced peaches into salads, and of course eating them out of hand! (Over the sink of course because they're so ripe and juicy that their sweet nectar runs over your hand and down your arm!)

It's easy this time of year to eat locally. Practically all manner of produce is in season and the farmers' markets (as well as my own garden!) are all overflowing with great, fresh fruits and vegetables. None the less, if I want to continue to be a good locavore, eating from the fantastic market that is the Niagara Region, a little foresight is needed. Let's face it, in the middle of January and February a peach from the grocery store (imported from God knows where in the world!) doesn't come close to comparing to a peach grown a few short kilometers from our own backyard!

Canning peaches is relatively easy (although I suggest you try it on a cooler day!). A little lemon juice, water and sugar is all you need to make it happen! There are of course other options and we did can some our peaches with cinnamon sticks, star anise and a couple of cloves to spice things up! Make sure you follow the safety instructions of a good canning book (we used the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving).

Rush out there and get some of the last of the season peaches, each bite will be a reminder of all those days of warm sunshine!

Mike's Peaches in Light Syrup

Gather your ingredients:
(for 12 1L jars)

30lbs ripe, mature peaches
Simple Syrup (15 cups sugar and 34 cups water)
Boiling Water
12 1L mason jars with lids
Lemon juice

First thing is to boil your lids and jars to ensure that they're sterilized.

Next step, boil water to blanch your peaches in and get a large bowl of ice water ready.

Cut a very small 'x' on the bottom of the peach and carefully dunk it into the boiling water for 40-60 seconds and then quickly dip the peach into the ice water for a moment (just long enough to cool the peach for you to handle it). This process will allow the skin to release from the peach easily.

Peel the peaches, remove the pit and slice however you prefer (quarters are pretty easy). The place the sliced peaches into a new bowl with a mixture of 4 cups water and 1/4 cup lemon juice. This will stop the fruit from oxidizing and discoloring!

Next make your syrup by boiling the sugar and the water together. Keep warm.

Pack peaches into sterilized jars . Pack the fruit to 3/4 inch from the rim, fill with hot syrup to 1/2 inch of the rim. Use a long narrow object (a wooden spoon handle works well) to remove any air bubbles before sealing. Be sure to wipe off the rim with a clean, sterile cloth before placing a lid on the jar. Place ring on the jar only to finger tight (do not overtighten!).

Boil your jars for 25 minutes completely covered in water. Remove from boiling water and let rest. Make sure all jar lids have 'popped' before storing! Open when there is snow on the ground and pat yourself on the back for planning ahead!

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