Saturday, July 30, 2011

Canning Peaches

I learned something about peaches I didn't know before... I always knew there were "cling" peaches and "freestone" peaches and when on the search for peaches to can and preserve have always preferred freestone because of the ease in removing that pesky pit. In a cling peach the peach fruit "clings" to the pit and they're delicious for eating but difficult in preserving because you pretty much have to cut the flesh away from the seed. In a freestone peach you simply run your knife around the circumference and it pulls away easily from the pit in two halves. I always thought different varieties of peaches had different "clinginess" but I was indeed wrong! The peach expert at the farmers market, when we asked who was selling freestone peaches that day, replied that most everyone had freestones, but to be sure to ask just in case. He went on to explain that it's the season of year that designates whether a peach is cling or freestone. Early season peaches are generally cling and mid to late season peaches are freestone. Well, you CAN teach an ol' granny new tricks! I never knew that!

Thought I'd share that info!

When my daughter, Hannah, and I had our all day peach canning day recently, we canned up a few jars of simple peaches in syrup... great for snacking, with cottage cheese for a light lunch, or for making a yummy cobbler (the South's all time favorite dessert, alongside banana pudding!)

I still can peaches the way my Mama did and her Mama before her... it has always worked nicely and I see no need to mess with a good thing. Peaches are one of the few things I prefer to can using the raw pack method... like the name implies, raw packing is packing the raw fruit into hot, sterilized jars, then pouring a simple syrup over and processing them... I usually hot pack most produce because I can fit more in each jar that way, but peaches are worth having a little shrinkage going on in those jars, the juices left over in the jar are wonderful in their own way and add juiciness to cobblers... any ol' how... here's what we did...

We peeled (pour boiling water over the peaches or dip them in boiling water to loosen the peels for easy removal), halved and sprinkled Fruit Fresh over them as we went to prevent discoloring (Fruit Fresh is a citric acid)

Then we packed those juicy delicious peach halves into our hot, sterilized jars, RAW! (to sterilize the jars, we put them in a flat pan with a dish towel inside to keep them from falling over or clinking together, and water added, turn the jars upside down in the pan and bring to a boil)

We made a simple syrup of one part water, one part sugar... bringing the syrup to a boil and making sure all the sugar is dissolved.

Once the raw peaches were packed into the jars (sometimes this takes a little maneuvering, like a jigsaw puzzle!)... we poured the syrup over the peaches, filling the jar, leaving a half inch of headspace. We removed any air bubbles... we used a plastic tool that came with our canning kit, but a butter knife works just as well... just run it down the inside of the jar, between the fruit and the side of the jar. If there's a good amount of air released, more syrup will need to be added to fill back up to the half inch headspace.

We tightened our hot, sterilized jar lids and rings onto the jars to fingertip tightness (we had simmered the lids and rings in hot water, keeping them hot and simmering until we were ready for them).

We processed our jars of peaches in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (fill a canner, or large stockpot to the tops of the jars, bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to a gentle boil)

Once the jars of peaches had processed, we removed them from the hot water using a jar lifter (such a handy gadget!) and placed them on a folded dish towel on the counter to cool.

And to listen for the sound of the PING! of each successfully sealed jar! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that sound!

Notice how the peaches shrank up a little during processing,
leaving all that lovely peachy-flavored syrup? It only adds
to the deliciousness and makes a great base for cobbler!

Can't wait to make a cobbler!

My Mama always made a super easy, super delicious cobbler using home canned peaches (you can use any fruit really)... here's how she did it and, again, I see no reason to stray from this perfection...

Melt a stick of butter in a 9x13 inch baking pan (I use a glass one)

Meanwhile mix a cup of self-rising flour, a cup of sugar, and 3/4 cup of milk in a mixing bowl

Once the butter is melted, pour a quart jar of home canned peaches over the melted butter in the pan, using a spoon, sorta chop the peaches into more bite sized pieces if desired... or leave them in their halves... it's a personal preference thing here!

Then pour over the flour/sugar/milk mixture... it will bubble around, surround and make a wonderful cobbler crust with the peaches and syrup...

Bake in a 350 degree oven until golden brown... I think it takes about 30 minutes...maybe 45... just keep checking until it's done through and golden brown... Heaven on Earth for the taste buds!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Canning Pickled Peaches

Saturday trip to the Farmers Market to pick up green beans took a slightly different course... we (my canning assistant, my sweet daughter, Hannah and myself) had stayed up until all hours Friday night and didn't get to the market as early as we had planned... My DH, Hannah's DBF, Hannah and myself made it to market in the late morning, we were on a mission to buy a bushel of my favorite green beans, half-runners... I wouldn't settle for anything else... the half-runners were sold out and gone by the time we got there... Oh, there were round beans, Blue Lakes, bush beans... but to me they all taste like rubber compared to half-runners... there would be more coming in on Thursday, I was willing to wait...

But the mother-daughter canning weekend wasn't over... we found peaches galore... yummy, sweet, local freestone peaches so we bought some (I'll do the beans next week)... and we brought our pickin's home with a quick detour to Rita's Italian Ice for a gelati (my Hannah loves Rita's as much as I do and we make it a point to visit there any time she visits for our favorite mango gelati!) Nick had a peach gelati (fitting!) and DH had a strawberry custard cone... then home to start on the peaches.

Since our plans had changed from beans to peaches, we had a decision to make... do we just do simple peaches in syrup or do we go for something more complicated? more exotic? more of a challenge? We chose more of a challenge with the plan that if there were any leftovers we'd can the rest in simple syrup. Our choice? Pickled peaches!

Here's what we did...

First we washed our peaches then poured boiling water over them so the skins would slip off easily... we peeled and cut the peaches in half... and the fact that they were freestone peaches, the pits came out easily and were discarded.

As the layers of peaches grew in the big stainless steel bowl, we sprinkled Fruit Fresh on each layer as we went along. We peeled and halved until we had 32 cups of peeled peach halves.

We then prepared our pickling syrup...

We tied 4 cinnamon sticks and 4 Tablespoons of whole cloves in a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag. In a large stainless steel saucepan we combined 12 cups of granulated sugar, 8 cups of apple cider vinegar, and the spice bag... bringing the mixture to a boil and letting it boil gently for 5-10 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar and allowing the spices to infuse the liquid.

Chopping candied ginger

Next we added the peach halves and 2-3 Tablespoons of chopped candied ginger and brought the mixture back to a boil, reduced the heat and let it simmer for another 7-10 minutes. (I won't go into a slight mishap of a boil-over we experienced because it all turned out good and nothing was ruined... Hey, stuff happens!)

We prepared our jars by placing them in a pan of boiling water to heat up and sterilize. We put our lids and rings on to simmer, keeping them hot until we were ready to use them.

After the peaches had simmered in the pickling liquid (and the boil-over was cleaned up!) we discarded the spice bag and began filling our hot, sterilized jars with the peach mixture, leaving a generous half-inch of headspace in each jar.

We removed any air bubbles and added more hot pickling liquid whenever needed.

We wiped the jar rims and added the lids and rings (removing them from the simmering water using our handy-dandy magnetic jar lid gadget...

 tightening to finger-tip tightness.

We processed our pickled peaches in a boiling water bath... place jars in the canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water... bring to a boil and process for 20 minutes.

We then removed the jars using our jar lifter, set them on the counter to cool and listened for the satisfying sound... the PING of each successfully sealed jar!

There were 3 or 4 peach halves left over, which we sampled... and this is the best description I can give them... fresh peaches taste like summer to me... these delicious pickled peaches tasted like a warm, autumn day... the apple cidery taste, the spices, the sweetness... Sooo Sooo good!

These peaches would make a great accompaniment to roasted meats (especially ham) as well as a sweet snack, or a side dish with bacon, eggs, and biscuits for breakfast.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Birthday Gifts and Canning Brandied Cherries

My youngest daughter called me earlier in the week and announced she wanted to come visit for a day or two this past weekend... Well YEAH!!! Exciting news for me! 

My Hannah (who I sometimes call Hannah-Belle or most of the time, Yanni... don't ask where that name came from, I have no idea but it's what I call her) had recently celebrated a birthday and I had her gift here awaiting a visit so I could give it... she's a real grown-up now... she has moved past her mid-twenties and is on the road to 30... my baby girl!!! It's so hard to believe what a lovely, smart, talented young woman she has become... she should still be "Foah" years old in my eyes but time has a way of moving on.

She has recently become interested in getting back to her roots... she planted a flower garden this year and has plans for a vegetable garden next spring... so I bought her a pressure canner, a book on home canning, and a set of canning tools... and the promise to teach her how to use them. She was excited at the prospect and as soon as she received the book, began devouring it and exclaiming and planning all the recipes she wanted to try... it was a gift well-received and appreciated... made me glow!

Hannah arrived on Friday evening with her sweet boyfriend, Nick, for the weekend visit... we grilled burgers, DH made his famous hot oil salad, and we roasted potatoes for dinner... YUM!

I thought we'd begin bright and early Saturday morning with our canning marathon...

Earlier Friday afternoon I had (at long last after quite a search) found a cherry pitter and purchased it, then on to the grocery store for a few pounds of cherries they had on sale this week... I've been wanting to make Brandied Cherries for some time and now was my chance... and with a willing assistant.

My Yanni was anxious to get started and said "Why can't we do the cherries tonight?" So we did, with plans to do some other things the next day.

Here's what we did...

The recipe called for three and a half pounds of sweet red cherries (we doubled it)

And began the process of pitting about seven pounds of cherries with the new pitter gadget... FUN!

Perfectly pitted cherry!

Once all the cherries were pitted...

We made a syrup of 2 cups granulated sugar, 1-1/2 cups water, and 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (of course we doubled the recipe so this was doubled, you do the math)... we decided to throw a cinnamon stick into the syrup for a bit more flavor and brought the mixture to a boil, making sure all the sugar was dissolved, discarding the cinnamon stick... we kept the mixture hot while we prepared our jars and lids... boiling them and keeping them hot until ready for use...

Once the jars were hot... we added a quarter cup of the prepared syrup to each pint jar.

Next, we filled the jars with our pitted cherries...

Then we added a quarter cup of brandy to each jar...

We then finished filling the jars with more of the prepared syrup, leaving about a half inch of headspace.

Look at the concentration and intensity on my sweet girl's face

We processed our jars of cherry goodness in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

After processing, we removed the jars from the boiling water (using Yanni's new jar lifter!) and set them on the counter to cool and to wait for that satisfying sound... the PING of each successfully sealed jar.

In all honesty... this time we did NOT hear any pings... by the time we were done with our project and had talked and laughed and caught up with each other's lives... it was 2:30 a.m. and we dragged ourselves exhaustedly to bed... DH woke up about 4 a.m. to, Ummm, well... you know... what else to we get up at 4 a.m. for??? (psst... potty time)... and heard a couple pings... so we all awoke later that morning to a counter full of sealed jars of garnet orbs of cherry goodness.

Can't wait to try it on vanilla ice cream with a little fudge sauce (Black Forest Sundae maybe?)

html, body, div, span, applet, object, iframe, h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p, blockquote, pre, a, abbr, acronym, address, big, cite, code, del, dfn, em, font, img, ins, kbd, q, s, samp, small, strike, strong, sub, sup, tt, var, b, u, i, center, dl, dt, dd, ol, ul, li, fieldset, form, label, legend, table, caption, tbody, tfoot, thead, tr, th, td { margin: 0; padding: 0; border: 0; outline: 0; font-size: 100%; vertical-align: baseline; background: transparent; } body { line-height: 1; } ol, ul { list-style: none; } blockquote, q { quotes: none; } /* remember to define focus styles! */ :focus { outline: 0; } /* remember to highlight inserts somehow! */ ins { text-decoration: none; } del { text-decoration: line-through; } /* tables still need 'cellspacing="0"' in the markup */ table { border-collapse: collapse; border-spacing: 0; }