Just Peachy!

peaches

We have a peach tree.  It produces a billion or more fruit (ok … that’s an exaggeration but it seems that way because most of them ripen all within 14 days or so), and with only two of us it’s challenging to eat that many before we get sick of them or they go bad.  So … what to do?  Leave them for the Japanese beetles, bats and birds?  Heck no!

There are literally thousands of things you can do with peaches.  Our typical plan of attack is to freeze them, make them into jam/preserves, spice and can them, or make dehydrated leather.  (If you need to know more about canning we recommend pickyourown.org.)

A few of our favorite recipes are also included here:  Peach Pie, Peach Cobbler, Peach Drop Cookies, Peach/Raspberry Salmon, and Peach Lemonade.  Enjoy!


Frozen (*humming Let It Go*) Peaches
The basis for just about everything … freeze them.  If you don’t have time to do anything else, take off the skins (boiling water, then ice water), ½ the peaches and pit them, then freeze them.  You can use them after that for jam/preserves, spiced peaches, in recipes or to dehydrate/leather.  Here’s a basic how to:

  1. Slit skin in an X on the bottom (stem side).
  2. Blanch the peaches by putting them in a large bowl of boiling water for about 60 seconds; then
  3. Put the peaches in a bowl of ice water for about the same time.
  4. Peel the skin from the peaches when they are cool enough to handle.
  5. Cut the peach in ½ and remove the pit. You can cut them into quarters or eighths at this point if you wish.
  6. Prep them for freezing: There are three ways to freeze peaches (we use the water pack method):

    Water Pack: Pack peaches into a pint- or quart-size freezer container or bag, leaving 1/2-inch headspace for pints and 1-inch headspace for quarts. Pour water over the peaches, maintaining the specified headspace.
    Sugar Pack: Pack a small layer of peaches into a pint- or quart-size freezer container. Sprinkle lightly with sugar; repeat layering, leaving 1/2-inch headspace for pints and 1-inch headspace for quarts. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes or until juicy before freezing.
    Syrup Pack: Prepare desired syrup (see below). Pack peaches into a pint- or quart-size freezer container or bag, leaving 1/2-inch headspace for pints and 1-inch headspace for quarts. Pour syrup over the peaches, maintaining the specified headspace. 

    To prepare syrup:  Place the recommended amounts of sugar and water (see below) in a large saucepan. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and skim off foam, if necessary.  Allow1/2 to 2/3 cup syrup for each 2 cups peaches.
    Very Light Syrup: Use 1 cup sugar and 4 cups water to yield about 4 cups syrup.
    Light Syrup: Use 1-2/3 cups sugar and 4 cups water to yield about 4-1/4 cups syrup.
    Medium Syrup: Use 2-2/3 cups sugar and 4 cups water to yield about 4-2/3 cups syrup.
    Heavy Syrup: Use 4 cups sugar and 4 cups water to yield about 5-3/4 cups syrup.

  7. Freeze. Seal containers or bags according to manufacturer’s directions, pressing out as much air as possible.  If necessary, use freezer tape around lid for a tight seal.  Label each container or bag with its contents, amount, and date. Lay bags flat; add bags or containers to freezer in batches to make sure they freeze quickly. Leave space between containers or bags so air can circulate around them. When frozen solid, the containers or bags can be placed closer together.

Use frozen peaches within 8 to 10 months.
I suggest you NOT use glass jars to freeze.  They will crack.  Not good.


Spiced Peaches
Yield: about 6 pints
Ingredients:
6 lbs Peaches (about 2 dozen medium sized peaches)
8 cups sugar
2 ¾ c cider vinegar (5% strength)
4 Cinnamon sticks
4 teaspoons whole cloves
1-1/3 cups water

  • Blanch, pit and ¼ the peaches. (NOTE:  The “traditional” Southern style is to leave the peaches whole and stick the cloves into them).
  • Mix the sugar, vinegar, and water in a 6 qt. or larger pot. Heat over medium-high stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Put cinnamon sticks and cloves in a double thickness of cheesecloth and tie with twine at the top. Add them to the pot.  (NOTE:  You may add additional cinnamon or cloves if you want spicier peaches.)
  • Bring the pot to boil, cover and boil for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and boil for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Add the peaches to the hot syrup. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until tender.
  • Fill the jars to within ¼ inch of the top, wipe rims, place a lid in top and finger tighten a ring.
  • Water bath the jars as follows:
    Pints/Half-pints:  5 minutes.  From 1001 to 6000 ft, process for 10 minutes.  Above 6001 ft, process for 15 minutes
    Quarts:  10 minutes.  From 1001 to 6000 ft., process to 15 minutes.  Above 6001 ft., process for 20 minutes.
  • Remove jars from water and set aside for 24 hours to cool.

Peach Jam / Preserves
(I assume you have the canning items necessary for this or have canned fruit previously.  If not, see pickyourown.org for further info).
I use Sure-Jell by Kraft powdered pectin and follow their directions for hot water bath canning.
Ingredients:
4 cups prepared fruit (about 3 lb. fully ripe peaches)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. EVER-FRESH Fruit Protector (optional)
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine (optional)
5-1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

  • Bring boiling-water canner, half-full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
  • Peel and pit peaches. Finely chop fruit. Measure exactly 4 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-quart saucepot. Add lemon juice and fruit protector; stir until well blended. Stir in pectin. Add butter to reduce foaming, if desired. Bring to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
  • Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/4 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 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely.  After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

Dehydrated Peaches / Leather
One of the best investments we made was buying a dehydrator.  Here’s how to dehydrate peaches or make fruit leather:

Dehydrate:

  • After you blanch and peel the peaches, drop them in acidulated water (1 ½ tblsp. per quart of water) or use FruitFresh or another type of fruit preservative.  This will stop them from turning brown.  Slice the peaches 1/8 to ¼” and drop them back into the acidulated water.
  • Drain the peaches and arrange them on dehydrator trays.  You can use parchment paper if you wish.
  • Dehydrate at 135F for 20 to 36 hours.  Store completely dried fruit in airtight containers or in vacuum bags.

Leather:

Leathers From Fresh Fruit

  • Select ripe or slightly overripe fruit.
  • Wash fresh fruit or berries in cool water. Remove peel, seeds and stem.
  • Cut fruit into chunks. Use 2 cups of fruit for each 13″ x 15″ inch fruit leather. Pureé fruit until smooth.
  • Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or 1/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid (375 mg) for each 2 cups light colored fruit to prevent darkening.
  • Optional: To sweeten, add corn syrup, honey or sugar. Corn syrup or honey is best for longer storage because it prevents crystals. Sugar is fine for immediate use or short storage. Use ¼ to ½ cup sugar, corn syrup or honey for each 2 cups of fruit. Saccharin-based sweeteners could also be used to reduce tartness without adding calories. Aspartame sweeteners may lose sweetness during drying.
  • Applesauce can be dried alone or added to any fresh fruit pureé as an extender. It decreases tartness and makes the leather smoother and more pliable.

Leathers From Canned or Frozen Fruit

  • Home preserved or store-bought canned or frozen fruit can be used.
  • Drain fruit, save liquid.
  • Use 1 pint of fruit for each 13″ X 15″ leather.
  • Purée fruit until smooth. If thick, add liquid.
  • Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or 1/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid (375 mg) for each 2 cups of light colored fruit to prevent darkening.

Preparing the Trays

  • For drying in the oven a 13″ X 15″ cookie pan with edges works well. Line pan with plastic wrap being careful to smooth out wrinkles. Do not use waxed paper or aluminum foil.
  • To dry in a dehydrator, specially designed plastic sheets can be purchased or plastic trays can be lined with plastic wrap.

Pouring the Leather

  • Fruit leathers can be poured into a single large sheet (13″ X 15″) or into several smaller sizes. Spread pureé evenly, about 1/8-inch thick, onto drying tray. Avoid pouring pureé too close to the edge of the cookie sheet. The larger fruit leathers take longer to dry. Approximate drying times are 6 to 8 hours in a dehydrator, up to 18 hours in an oven and 1 to 2 days in the sun.

Drying the Leather

  • Dry fruit leathers at 140ºF. Leather dries from the outside edge toward the center. Test for dryness by touching center of leather; no indentation should be evident. While warm, peel from plastic and roll, allow to cool and rewrap the roll in plastic. Cookie cutters can be used to cut out shapes that children will enjoy. Roll, and wrap in plastic.

Chances are the fruit leather will not last long enough for storage. If it does, it will keep up to 1 month at room temperature. For storage up to 1 year, place tightly wrapped rolls in the freezer


Recipes:

Most of these recipes are from Taste of Home with a few changes of my own.

Peach Pie
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 35 min. + standing Bake: 50 min. + cooling
MAKES: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4-1/2 cups sliced peeled peaches
Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter

  • In a large bowl, combine sugars; add peaches and toss gently. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Line a 9-in. pie plate with bottom pastry; trim even with edge. Set aside. Drain peaches, reserving juice.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the cornstarch, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt; gradually stir in reserved juice. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in lemon juice and butter. Gently fold in peaches. Pour into crust.
  • Roll out remaining pastry; make a lattice crust. Trim, seal and flute edges. Cover edges loosely with foil. Bake at 400° for 50-60 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Remove foil. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 6-8 servings.

NOTE:  Cool at least 6 to 8 hours before serving to allow filling to thicken.


Peach Cobbler
Ingredients

4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Ground cinnamon, optional

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Combine the peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • Put the butter in a 3-quart baking dish and place in oven to melt.
  • Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup. Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon, if using. Batter will rise to top during baking. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.
  • To serve, scoop onto a plate and serve with your choice of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Peach Drop Cookies
Yield: about 40 cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 13 minutes per pan
Ingredients
2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/3 cup peach preserves (or mix it up and use apricot)
3 tablespoons sanding sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper.
  • Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix well.
  • Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined.
  • Add the peaches and preserves, mixing just until combined.
  • Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared pans, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.
  • Combine the sanding sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle each cookie with about 1/8 teaspoon of the innamon-sugar.
  • Bake the cookies 11 to 13 minutes, or until golden brown and just set. Cool on the pans for 5 minutes. Then, carefully transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Be sure to refrigerate the dough between baking batches.

Store cookies in an airtight container in single layers with waxed paper between layers. They are best the day they’re baked, but will keep for 2 to 3 days. They will soften more over time.


 Peach/Raspberry Salmon
Ingredients
2 to 3 fresh peaches, skinned and pitted
1 shallot, chopped
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ pint raspberry jam
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup honey
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 (4-ounce) salmon fillets, defrosted or fresh
Canola oil

  • Put peaches, raspberry jam, shallots, and mustard into a food processor or blender. Purée until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil and process about 30 seconds until mixed.  Then blend for an additional 30 seconds. Add vinegar and process until well combined. Taste and adjust with more mustard, vinegar, or honey as necessary.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • Lightly coat salmon with salt and pepper.  Place in oiled baking dish.  Pour the peach/raspberry mixture over the fish and cook in oven for about 20 to 40 minutes until flaky.  The warmed vinaigrette may be spooned over the top; sliced peaches and/or raspberries may be used as garnish.
  • Serving suggestion: white rice.

Peach Lemonade
MAKES: 5 servings
Ingredients
4 cups water, divided
2 medium peaches, skinned, pitted, chopped
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 medium lemon, sliced
Mint sprigs, optional

  • In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups water, peaches and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until peaches are tender. Remove from the heat. Cool. Strain.
  • In a large pitcher, combine the peach mixture, lemon juice and remaining water. Add lemon slices and mint if desired. Serve over ice.

When Life Gives You Lemons

lemonrecipe
The recent request for lemons from a trading group I belong to brings up a question .. what do you do with yours? We’ve done the following in the past:
1) grate the zest and dry it then put it in brown paper bags. The zest will last about 6 months or more in a cool, dry, dark environment (the peels can be candied or used to make extract)
2) candy the peel. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/56693/candied-lemon-peel/ (picture here from allrecipes)
3) juice as much as possible and freeze it. If you don’t use it for cooking you can use it for cleaning specifically your windows.
4) lemon protein bars (lots of recipes out there)
5) make your own lemon extract (again … lots of recipes)
6) make lemon cookies with lemon cream centers and freeze them (they will last about a year)
7) make lemon marmalade (sweet and sour and good for recipes like Mandarin Lemon Chicken or Greek Lemon Chicken)
8) Lemoncello
9) make lemon curd (which freezes well then lasts for about 7 days in the refrigerator after thawing)

Any other ideas?

Week 5: Chili – Turkey and Pumpkin

Reddit does a 52 week Cooking Challenge wherein each week “we will challenge ourselves to cook with a new ingredient or theme and share pictures of the results.”

Week 5 (last week of January) was Chili, and I decided to make the Trader Joe’s Fall Pumpkin Chili that my daughter and son-in-law introduced me to about 18 months ago when I lived with them in WA. It’s definitely “different” as far as chili goes. The spousal unit seemed to enjoy it since he finished off the leftovers.

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Here’s my modified version of the recipe:

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 White Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, diced
2 pkg (2+ lbs) Ground Turkey
1 can Diced & No Salt Added Tomatoes
2 cans Pumpkin
1 can Kidney Beans, drained
1 can Whole Kernel Corn, drained
1 Bell Pepper (Orange or Red)
2 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper (or more, to taste)

In a large skillet, sauté onions and bell peppers in olive oil until onions are translucent and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds. Add in ground turkey and continue sautéing until turkey is browned. Drain excess oil, then transfer mixture to a large (4 quart or more) sauce pan. Stir in tomatoes, pumpkin, beans, corn and spices. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with sour cream, cheese, and cilantro as garnish; and corn bread.

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