Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Peechy Keen


The ripe and delicious fruits of summer are everywhere these days. Overflowing in their bins at the grocery store, scattering tables at the farmers markets, and if you are lucky hanging heavily from the branches of trees in your yard. The other weekend we noticed that our little peach tree was so full of fruit that the branches were all drooping downward and even (gasp!) starting to drop some of its fruit on the ground bellow. After picking all of the ripe peaches from the tree we found that we had nearly 10 lbs of fruit! Visions of peach cobblers, pies and crumbles danced in my head but 10 lbs of ripe peaches is a lot of fruit and even after some scrumptious baked goodies were made there were still more than a few pounds of peaches left to work with. I thought about freezing them like I had done with all those blueberries picked a few weeks ago, or giving some away to friends and family but instead I decided to try something new and time consuming in the kitchen. Something that would allow me to save the deliciousness of the summer peaches for later and also create something that could be shared with all of my peach loving family and friends. This recipe is based upon a recipe for lemongrass peach butter from Travelers Lunch Box and a lesson on canning from a foods class I took in high school.

Lemongrass and Vanilla infused Peach Butter
Makes between 10 and 12 half pint jars



Ingredients

approximately 6 lbs of peaches
3 cups sugar
6 lemongrass stalks, cut into chunks
1 vanilla bean, split open lengthwise and cut in half
½ cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Tools for canning

between 10 and 12 half pint jars, lids, and rims
very large pot for boiling jars in
wire rack to put in the bottom of the pot
tongs for removing jars from boiling water
wide mouthed funnel (very handy but not a necessity)

Making the butter

First you need to remove the skins from the peaches. To do this fill your largest pot 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil. While you are waiting for this to boil prepare an ice bath in a large bowl, again filling only 2/3 full with water. Once the pot of water is boiling plop as many peaches as you can fit into the bubbling pot and allow to cook for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon remove the peaches and add them immediately to the ice bath to cool for 2 minutes. Once the peaches have cooled you can remove their skins, give the skin a pinch and it should peel off fairly easily.



If you were unable to boil all of your peaches in the first batch repeat the process until all of your peaches have been boiled and skinned. Using your hands or a knife pry open the peach and remove the pit, cut away any bad spots on the fruit, slice the peach into a few different pieces and place the meat of the peach into a large bowl.



I like to use my hands to do this part! Add to this the sugar and then cover the bowl to let the peaches sit and get nice and juicy for 1 ½ to 2 hours.

After a few hours have past strain the juice from the peaches into a large pot. Add to this your lemongrass pieces, vanilla bean, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and let this simmer on low for 3o to 40 minutes or until the mixture thickens slightly. Turn off the heat and using a slotted spoon or a strainer remove the lemongrass from the syrup. Now you are ready to puree the peach mixture. Using your blending machine of choice (vita mixer, blender, or if you have one an immersion blender right in the pot) blend the peaches and the syrup together until smooth.



Add this mixture and the lemon juice back to the pot (if it’s not already there), you can add more lemon juice and sugar to fit your taste and then cook on medium low until the mixture thickens to the consistency of baby food, about 30 to 40 minutes. If you don’t want to mess with the canning process you can store the peachy butter in containers and pop it in the refrigerator, just make sure you consume it within a few weeks.

Canning

During this last 30 minutes of cooking phase you should prepare your jars. Wash your jars and stand them upright in a giant pot with a wire rack in the bottom of it (something that will keep the jars from sitting directly on the bottom of the pan), fill the pot with water to cover the jars completely and then bring the pot of water and jars to boil on the stove. Once jars have boiled remove them one at a time using tongs from the water, immediately ladle some of the warm peach mixture into the jar within ½ inch of the top being careful not to spill any peachy mixture on the lip of the jar (it is super handy to use one of those wide mouthed funnels for canning at this point). Wipe the rim of the jar clean if there is any peachy residue there, place the lid on the jar and then screw on the band. Once all the jars being boiled are full carefully place the jars back into the water bath and boil for 10 minutes to seal the jars.



Using the tongs carefully remove the jars from the bath and set on a towel or wire rack to cool. Once the jars have cooled push on the tops to make sure they have all sealed properly. If you have a jar that is not sealed put it in the fridge and consume within 2 weeks. All of the other jars should keep in a cool dry place such as a pantry for a year (though this recipe is so delicious I highly doubt your supply will last that long!).



This delicious peachy concoction is delicious on a number of things. A few of my personal favorites being:

  • Spread on fresh bread, muffins, french toast or waffles.
  • Mixed with greek yogurt and sprinkled with walnuts for breakfast
  • Mixed with balsamic, dijon mustard, evoo, ground flax and garlic to make a salad dressing.
  • Atop a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • Mixed with honey and dijon mustard to form a sauce and marinade for chicken.

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