Posts Tagged peaches

Never give up

A while back I grumbled, rightly, about my melon syrup, which tastes great, but is several notches too liquid to be called a jam, and I threatened to use it as the base for poached fruit rather than pretending it was jam. Today was the time to try that out, poaching sliced up peaches and a handful of plums in a mix of the melon syrup, plus a honey-water syrup base (half a cup honey, 2 cups water, juice of one lemon.)

The fruit is very pleasant, if a little sweet (skip the honey next time, I think), and there’s a hint of the lime/ginger/melon taste that I loved when I made the jam syrup in the first place. I  put it in a big container in the freezer rather than digging out the canning gear — and I can imagine it over ice cream, with yogurt or even with farro or steel cut oats when I get back into winter breakfast mode.

But the real revelation is using the leftover syrup with fizzy water, for a taste of heaven.

I give you peach spritzer. A splash of syrup, a lot of soda water and a bit of ice. All I need is the mint and the little paper umbrella.

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A peck too much pepper for the peach

One thing I’ve learned in my 4-5 years of jam making is that you can always play with the recipe a bit, substituting lime for lemon, adding some honey instead of sugar, throwing in herbs at the end, swapping one fruit for another, or mixing two different fruits and figuring out which taste will come out on top.

But I admit my latest batch of peach peppercorn jam probably smashes up against the limits of what works. Bottom line: if you halve the recipe, don’t virtually double the peppercorns and expect the finished product to turn out well.

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I was trying to recreate something that hit the jackpot three years ago when I first tried tweaking a recipe that added ground white pepper to nectarine jam for my own peach-white peppercorn creation with a subtle and almost invisible bite. I’ve done it a couple of times since, including once with black pepper instead of white, But it never quite made the magic of those first few glorious jars.

This time we had a little confusion about how many peaches we needed for our weekend jamming session, and after using most of the stash in the deep blue peach blueberry jam I blogged about last week, there were only enough left over for 3/4 of this particular recipe. And the peaches were not quite ripe enough as well, so there was more waste than normal, so I probably ended up with just over half of what I should have.

No matter, I boiled it up with the sugar, put it in the fridge to sit around for a couple of days, and then boiled it up again on Monday night, just like Tigress in a Jam says I should.

Except that between Saturday’s first simmer and Monday’s finish things up fast boil, I managed to forget that I had used fewer peaches than Tigress told me to. And I didn’t bother to count out my 20 peppercorns anyway so I’m guessing it was more like 25 peppercorns, or maybe even more. I gave up on my cheap and cheerful candy thermometer, which never seems to get above 100C, and did the jam by feel.

The result: It looks pretty, and it set to perfection, with pretty, chewy chunks of golden fruit suspended in a golden syrup. But there’s a seriously overwhelming taste of pepper, which might or might not mellow with time.

Oh well. If it doesn’t  mellow, which it probably will a little, it gives me an excuse to play with an interesting sounding recipe that uses nectarine jam in a glaze for chicken, along with herbs, and carrots as a vegetable base. I’m already plotting trying it with organic chicken thighs, garlic from the garden and minced up onions instead of garlic and onion salt, and perhaps with beets as well as carrots.

Any other ideas on what to do with some excessively peppery peach-peppercorn jam?

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

I finally got around to opening one of the jars, and the over-the-top pepper has mellowed out quite nicely, and the set is perfect. This pairs beautifully with plain Greek yogurt. Must. Make. Again.

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Crazy colors

When you mix colors, blue paint plus yellow paint turns to green.

So why do blue-purple blueberries and yellow-orange peaches produce a jam that’s almost black, with a hint of purple, while blueberries and orange-red apricots mix to a similar color, although with a slightly redder tinge?

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 And why do they look so similar, yet taste so very different?

The two jams took advantage of early peaches and late apricots in the market today, although both fruits would have been easier to manage if they had been a little riper. But the jams would have been even sweeter then, so maybe not such a good idea.

We started with a peach blueberry jam, from a community farmers’ market web site, which was a pretty basic recipe that told you to simmer up peaches and blueberries, add quite a lot of sugar and boil to a sweetish, fairly dense jam that looks like blueberry jam, and tastes like peach. (Huh?) Paring back the recipe somewhat, we used 1.5 kilos of peaches, which we peeled and chopped roughly, and 3 cups of blueberries, along with something like 4 cups of sugar and the juice of one lemon. (The prep work reminded me how much easier it is to peel peaches when they are ripe, which these were not, so it was a little messy.) But the jam, seven jars of it, is nice, if sweet.

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Next up was peach apricot jam, from Madelaine Bullwinkel’s Gourmet Preserves. It called for 2 pounds of  apricots and one of blueberries, with the juice of one lemon and an amazingly skimpy single cup of sugar. A taste test midway through the boil hinted at a jam that was not sweet enough, even for me, so I cooled it down and threw in another quarter of a cup of sugar before bringing it up to boil again. It set nicely and is pleasantly tart.

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And then there was the stuff that wouldn’t quite fit in the jars, blending the tartness of the apricot-blueberry mix with the sweeter peach version.

We ate it with plain Greek yogurt.

Nice.

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Scrimcoached peach tomato jam

First I have to thank blogger Mirandasoap for her use of the magnificent verb to scrimcoach, which she defines as  to pull together from your wits and which she used for a plum jam recipe last week.

You see scrimcoaching is what I do with recipes all the time, even if I didn’t know that was what I was doing, so my thanks to Miranda for giving me permission to use her word.

My scrimcoach  goal was simple: boil up a jam to prevent the home-grown tomatoes getting out of hand; and  attempt to recreate a five-out-of-five venture from two years back.

But while I loved the idea of a bright yellow tomato jam from my (mostly baby) yellow tomatoes, there was no way my little tomato plants were going to provide the three pounds of tomatoes I needed to redo  that 2010 recipe. Tomatoes and peaches make a surprisingly magnificent salad. Can I pretend they will be good in jam as well?

Tomato-peach-basil jam (makes 2-1/2 jars)
4 cups yellow tomatoes, seeded, but not peeled
2 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
1 scant cup sugar
handful basil
juice of two lemons
splash of balsamic vinegar

Simmer the peaches and tomatoes together until they boil down to a bright orange mush. Blend half the basil with half the sugar, and slice the rest of the basil into thin slices and set aside. Add the sugar to the tomato mix and boil until it thickens up nicely, adding the herbs/lemon juice at the last minute. Add a splash of balsamic or extra lemon juice to taste. Bottle in sterilized jars.

The verdict. It’s almost there. But I added the basil too early, so the basil flecks are muddy-brown rather than vibrant-green.  I should have added lemon juice or balsamic to cut the tomato-peach sweetness, but I fretted that would make things more liquid, or more muddy, and I didn’t. So it’s just a little meh unless you find the right thing to mix it with. But it did taste surprisingly good with feta spinach omelet tonight.

Rating: 3 (out of 5). Worth trying again, but I need to tweak the recipe.

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Kicking it up a notch

A while back I made a peach white peppercorn preserve that wowed me with its gentle hint of subtle fire. I tried it again a year later with nectarines and black pepper, and it didn’t quite cut it. But then the peach season rolled around again, and it was time to expermiment.

The main event between times was a short trip to Santa Fe, and its absolutely amazing farmers’ market. The stalls there offered so many different sorts of hot pepper, that my peaches and peppercorns venture seemed sort of tame. So while we redid the white pepper jam because it was so damn good, I voted for something with jalapenos too this time, and because it’s my kitchen when the vote is one-to-one, I win. (Well, if truth be told, canning buddy didn’t actually complain)

I did a bit of internet searching, and rejected everything that used pectin, as well as one recipe that told me to puree the peaches in a food processor before getting the jam under way. (I like chunks in my jam.) But then I blundered into Homesicktexan, who seemed to meet all my peach jalapeno jam criteria, including not proposing an indecently large volume of jam, in case we ended up not liking it.

Here’s what we did, which is close to the recipe in the link, but not quite there because we ran out of peaches, and I wimped out on the jalapeno.

Peach jalapeno jam (based on Homesick Texan’s recipe)
Just over 2 lbs peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
Just under 2 cups of sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

Add sugar to peaches and let it sit around for a bit until the sugar is mostly dissolved. (It was a hot day, it took about an hour). Add lemon juice and chopped up jalapeno and boil until it sets. Lisa suggests simmering for 40 minutes; ours was ready in about 20. Bottle in hot jars, water bath, if you are waterbathing sort of person.

It’s a little lemony (that was the only bit of the recipe we didn’t change), and it has a very gentle, very subtle bite.

We’re kicking up the jamming, just one notch.

From there we went to the hugely successful apricot lemon chutney from previous years and to a corn red pepper relish, because the corn has just come into season and I wanted to roast peppers on the new gas stove and try out my  new corn zipper.

First off, let me say the corn zipper works like a charm, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier.

The relish seems a little sweet right now, but it might mature.

Corn, pepper, basil relish (adapted, to add fire and remove celery, from The Complete Book of Pickling)
4 chopped, roasted red peppers, skin removed
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1/2 tbsp dill seeds
3 cups cider vinegar
8 cups corn kernels
2 cups chopped onions
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1/4 cup finely chopped basil (we used a mix of Thai, lemon and regular)

Roast the peppers by putting them directly on the gas burner and turning them round as they sizzle and char. Dunk in cold water, and peel off most of the skin, and then chop them and set aside.

Put all the ingredients except the red pepper and basil in a preserving kettle or heavy saucepan, heat gently until the sugar dissolves and then simmer for 30 minutes or so until it thickens. Add the peppers and simmer for another 5 minutes. Stir in basil and ladle into hot jars. Water bath for 15 minutes.

Aug 3 edit: It might have been a mistake to crack these open while fresh corn is still in season, but I admit I’m underwhelmed. There’s a nice spice undertone, but the overwhelming taste is sugar and bought canned peppers. No indication of the tender loving care that went into the preparation, and far too much sweetness for me.

Rating: 2 (out of 5)
Not one I’m going to bother to make again unless I tweak the recipe very violently.

And finally, I introduced canning buddy to the keep-in-the-fridge bread-and-butter pickles, making my third venture for this one in just three weeks. I’ve been taking slices into the office with me to kick up my lunch, and I even had a very small pickle sandwich (pickles and a single slice of bread) before today’s horribly hot and humid 64km bike ride. It helped keep me going for 47 of those kilometers and then I heat-stroked/bonked.

Here were the pickles, after their first introduction to the spice/vinegar/dill/garlic mix.

And this was the overall fruits of a morning of pretty intensive labor. Canning buddy is away for a month now, so I need to work out what I want to do solo before she returns.

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The beauty of long weekends

Two days without work is one thing. Three days is something completely different, and 40+ jars of tomatoes and tomato sauce obviously were not going to be enough. It was time to finish up those tomatoes, time to experiment, and time to have a little fun.

First up were the elephant plums I bought at the farmers’ market on Saturday — they look beautiful and they have a wonderful summer-fall taste.  After careful consideration, I decided to pair them with ginger, and I decided to wing it with the recipe because I really have not got a clue what elephant plums really are. (Edit: After a few internet investigations, I think they might actually be pluots, which are a plum apricot cross. If so, may I recommend pluots as a fruit to jam.)

I’ve had success with other fruits with a 4-3-2 mix (4 cups fruit, three cups sugar and juice of two lemons), so that was what I did, chopping the fruit and adding a half cup of chopped up candied ginger for a bit of a kick. I brought the mix up to a boil until it stopped foaming and let it boil for another 3 minutes or so until I thought I had a set. It’s a little runny, if truth be told, but nothing wrong with that.

And I think I consider this to be success — a glorious deep red jam with a little bit of a bite from the chewy ginger chunks. I think I should cut the sugar next time though. The ginger has sugar after all. It would be a little less of a jam.

From there things moved on at lightning pace as we processed the rest of the tomatoes and saving a few for a peach tomato salsa with a slightly-too-gentle kick. It was also a made up recipe of sorts, in that I took my favorite bits of two that I found online and hoped for the best.

Peach tomato salsa (inspired by the blueberry files and long distance table)

5 cups chopped, peeled peaches (half were ripe, half less so)
3 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes
1 chopped, peeled apple
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp sriracha (1-1/2 tsp would have been better)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar (I used a mix of white and brown)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Mix all ingredients except the cilantro and simmer for 15 minutes or so until thick. Add cilantro, and bottle in hot jars. Water bath 15 minutes.

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Peaches with peppercorns?

Do I write about peach preserve with white peppercorns, or common-or-garden crushed tomatoes for today’s blog entry?

I mean peach-pepper jam, another recipe from my new online heroine Tigress in a Jam is strange and exotic, with a gentle kick of pepper and large chunks of peaches suspended in a sweet-and-slightly-spicy syrup sauce.

But tomatoes are wonderfully in season, and canned, crushed tomatoes are something that we’ll use all winter long, whether it’s in stews or soups or something similar.

So I’ll write about both.

I admit I originally intended to make a tomato sauce with the haul from today’s farmers market run. But dire internet warnings about botulism and the need for pressure canning once vegetables enter the mix encouraged me to stay away from that this time and focus on plain Jane tomatoes, with nothing but salt, lemon juice and a little sugar for seasoning. I’ve never bought that many tomatoes before — the contents of the container weighed in at something over 5 kilos — and blanching, peeling and crushing them all created something of a production line, with tomato juice spattering every surface. (Dark, non favorite clothing is clearly the way to go for a tomato session). But the actual boiling and bottling was scarily quick, in line with a super-simple recipe from something called the National Center Home Food Preservation.

We ended up with eight 500 ml jars, plus some leftovers for freezing, at an average cost of under a buck a jar. I will think of the morning adventure when it comes to pasta sauce and minestrone soup in the dead of winter.

But I think the peach-pepper jam will top that as far as exotica is concerned, with a surprisingly subtle pepper bite along with taste-of-summer peach. It’s another one of those two-day recipes, where day one creates a syrup that’s boiled to a jam on day two. That means the fruit stays surprisingly whole instead of breaking up, so we have a mildly tangy syrup with golden peach slices. They were supposed to be nectarine slices, but I had peaches in stock, so that was that. I also used thyme rather than summer savory and added it too early, which created interesting looking green flecks in the amber jam.

The concoction looks a bit runny for now, but it will presumably firm up a little as it cools down. It tastes glorious already. I had it for lunch with plain organic yogurt. Very yummy.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) (provisional)
(The final figure will come when it cools down, and I see how good the set is.)

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