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Monday, July 25, 2011

Spiced Peaches

I'm really not sure how it happens that I go so long between posts sometimes. Sure, I'm busy, but I'm not that busy. Somehow, I turn around and two weeks (or longer) have passed me by. To be honest, if it weren't for my mom, it might even occasionally be longer between posts. Her gentle chiding, "I'm getting sick of looking at..." whatever it is I've had sitting there for a while is very motivating. And then I go look at my blog and think, "How can it really have been two weeks already? I could have sworn I just posted that recipe two days ago!" My how the time does fly! I guess that means I'm having fun, right? Or is it just that I'm getting older? Hmmm.... I think I'll stick with the former.

This is a great recipe. While you can forego the whole canning part and simply make a small amount to keep in the refrigerator for a week or so, I like to dive right in and make huge amounts when I have the chance.

A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for rosemary peach freezer jam and I mentioned that I also made some spiced peaches. Since then, I made another batch as well. I love this fruit stand that's set up in town. This time my five bucks paid for a box of cast off peaches that made fourteen pints of spiced peaches!

I've made canned peaches every way known to mankind and I've decided, for a number of reasons, that diced are the only way to go. First, you don't need perfect peaches (or cling free peaches). Second, you can prepare the fruit a whole heckuva lot faster. Third, you can fit more fruit in each jar, reducing your need for shelf space and processing time. Fourth, they don't look any less pretty than slices or halves, and they're the perfect bite sized pieces. I highly recommend going this route.

The first step is the remove the skins. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Drop 5-10 peaches into the water and count to 30 for really ripe peaches or one minute for slightly under ripe peaches. I really like to use the cast off, slightly overripe peaches because they have the best flavor.

Remove the peaches from the simmering water and drop into a sink or bowl full of cold water. Prepare a large bowl of cold water sprinkled with a little Fruit Fresh, citric acid, or lemon juice. As you peel and cut the peaches, drop them in this water so that they don't brown in the interim.

If you are working with cling peaches, where the fruit stubbornly does not release from the fruit, simply cut around the pit. No sense getting frustrated for nothing. Again, another reason why diced fruit is an easier way to go.

When you're almost done with the fruit preparation (20-30 minutes out), start 10 cups of water to simmering. Add the bundle of spices to flavor the syrup. You can use cheesecloth to keep the spices together (shown here), or...

you can use a cute little spice bag like this one. The spice bundle includes cinnamon, cloves, and all spice. Let the spices simmer in the water for 10 minutes or so and then add the sugar. Reduce the heat to hold the syrup until you are ready to heat the peaches.

Drain the peaches from the acidified water and rinse them off. Place the drained peaches into the pot of warm syrup. Increase the heat to medium or medium-high and let them heat through. You do not want them to boil. Meanwhile, get your boiling water canner ready if you are going to can the peaches. If you need a refresher on standard canning practices, check out my Canning 101 post.

Fill your clean jars with the hot peaches leaving a 1/2 inch head space. Use a plastic knife to remove air bubbles and then wipe the rims clean. Place heated lids and rings on and process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes for pint containers and 25 minutes for quarts.

Spiced Peaches Yield: 8-14 pints peaches

10 cups water
4 - 3" cinnamon sticks
2 tsp whole cloves
2 tsp whole allspice
4 cups sugar
16 - 28 cups diced peaches (roughly 2 cups per pint)

Bring the water to a simmer. Place the spices in a spice bag or wrapped in cheesecloth. Place in the simmering water for 10-15 minutes. Water will be colored and very aromatic. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Reduce heat to low until ready to heat peaches.

Place peaches in simmering water for 30 seconds to one minute to facilitate slipping the skins off. Remove peaches from hot water and immediately place in a cold water bath. Remove pits and skins and any blemishes from the fruit. Dice into 1 cm cubed pieces. Drop into cold water mixed with a little bit of Fruit Fresh, citric acid, or lemon juice. When peaches are all prepared, drain and rinse the peaches. Place peaches in the warm syrup, increase the heat to medium or medium-high and heat until the peaches are hot through. Do not boil or simmer peaches.

Prepare a water bath canner and set the water to heating. Meanwhile, fill clean jars with peaches and syrup to a 1/2 inch head space. Use a plastic knife to remove bubbles and adjust syrup level as necessary. Wipe rims clean. Place heated lids and bands on jars and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts. When processing time is up, remove canner from heat and let jars cool slightly in canner before removing. If they are removed right away, they often ooze syrup, making a mess. After 24 hours, remove the bands and clean jars before storing in a cool dark place for up to a year.

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