Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Preserving Summer Peach Butter


      As much as I love Autumn, the end of Summer is always bittersweet for me, as I'm sure it is for many. This year, I decided to go on a brand new canning adventure and carry a small edible piece of Summer with me through the darker months of the year: Peach Butter :)

     I love canning and preserving :) I've been helping my family do it all of my life. It's a great group activity. I mean,who doesn't love a kitchen filled with good food, good smells and good conversation? Canning is a good skill to have and a great way to exercise more control over what's in your food. My usual canning repertoire is strawberry jam, blueberries (okay, confession time, I don't process the blueberries, I wash and freeze them in airtight containers and they do just fine, they last all winter, no problem and they taste great :) applesauce and tomatoes and/or tomato sauce. But this year I wanted to branch out a little and give peach butter a try. It was the first fruit butter I have ever attempted and, let me say in all honesty, YUM. This, my dear friends, is spreadable Summer, high, lush, ripe Summer, my mouth is watering just thinking about I have any up here?...hmmmm.....*seductive eyebrow-wiggle in the direction of the fridge*

    This, like many of my best kitchen ideas, came from Deb at Smitten Kitchen. God BLESS this woman, she is a fearless culinary explorer. She came across a recipe for peach butter, drastically reduced the sugar and ELIMINATED the cinnamon and other warming spices and hot damn if she didn't hit the nail on the head. This is exactly what I would want out of a fruit butter, not too sweet, no heavy spices, just pure, unadulterated ripe peach flavor, YOWZA.

    I actually made two batches of this on two consecutive Saturdays. The first was a small test batch, and it only made about four half-pint jars. After round one passed without injury, my dear friend Theresa came over for the day and we made a triple batch :)

    The photos presented here are a mix of those two days. I've really followed Deb's method pretty much to the letter here, with one notable exception: For reasons unclear to me, my peach butter took TWICE as long to reach the desired consistency as Deb's original recipe said it would. I really don't know why that happened (but I noticed in the comments on her peach butter post that this happened to several other people, so I don't feel so bad about it). If I'm gonna lay it all out on the table, I would have liked my triple batch to be just a wee bit thicker, but I was afraid that if I let it reduce any more, the fruit would take on a burned flavor, and nobody likes that. So, I favored the spot-on flavor and slightly off consistency side of the equation and I didn't look back. You shouldn't either :) As you'll see in the recipe, you don't necessarily need to hot water-bath can this stuff. You can cool it, put it right in the jars, seal them up and put them in the fridge, and they'll last you a few theory *halo*

Peach Butter
(original recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen)

*This amount makes about four cups of peach butter
- 4 pounds peaches
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon

Without a Food Mill: Cut a small *X* in the bottom of each peach. Dip each into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, and then into a bowl of cold water for a minute. The peels should slide right off. (If you have a food mill, which I did, skip this peeling step and you'll see where to use it in a moment).

- Halve your peaches and remove the pits, then cut each half into quarters (i.e. 8 chunks from each peach). Place peach chunks and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until peaches are tender, about 15-20 minutes, stirring them occasionally to make sure they cook evenly. If you have a food mill (I did) run the peaches through the food mill to puree them and remove the skins. If you don't have a food mill, -i.e. you already peeled your peaches- you can puree them in a food processor, in a blender (Careful! They will be hot!) or with an immersion blender. How smooth you blend the butter is up to you, any consistency level is fine, whatever you prefer. If you do use the food mill, the peach liquid that strains out of the bottom will look thin, but don't worry it will thicken up.

- Return the peaches to the large pot, add the sugar and lemon juice and bring the mixture to a good strong simmer/gentle boil, cooking them at this level for 30-40 minutes (WARNING: This may take longer than 30-40 minutes, in my case it too about 90 minutes, DON'T PANIC), stirring occasionally in the beginning and more often near the end as the butter thickens up, you don't want the fruit masses on the bottom to get scorched.

- There are a few ways to test for doneness: You can drizzle a ribbon of sauce across the surface; when that ribbon holds its shape before dissolving into the pot, it is done. Or, you could use a cold or frozen plate; dollop a spoonful of the butter into the middle of a cold plate and if no water forms a ring around it in a couple of minutes, it is done. Or, you could use a spoon; if the butter remains rounded on a spoon for two minutes, it is done. You can also check the pot itself; the butter is usually done when a wooden spoon leaves a clear trail when scraped across the bottom.

- If you are not canning the peach butter, let it cool and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge. It should be good for at least two weeks.

- To can the peach butter: First, sterilize your jars by boiling them in a large deep pot of water (with enough water to cover the jars completely) for 10 minutes or by washing them in lots of hot, soapy water, rinsing and drying them well. (Deb says to put the jars minus the lids in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes, but I didn't do this and everything was fine).
Divide your piping hot peach butter between your jars, leaving a little room at the top.Wipe the rims clean with a dry towel and cover the jars with their lids. Submerge the jars in a canner or large deep pot of boiling water for 10 minutes, either in a removable basket or using tongs to dip and remove them. Let cool completely on towels, a process that may take overnight. If canned properly, the peach butter should last indefinitely at room temperature.

Somewhere there is a tray of homemade biscuits begging to be slathered with this golden nectar. Make it happen :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fresh Corn Salad

Hello , My Lovelies :)

     As I've been babbling about over on my other blog, this has been a busy and WONDERFUL summer, the highlight of which being our Engagement on July 24th, 2011 (Wahoooooo!!!! We're getting MARRIED!!! *happy dance!*) If you care to, you can read all about the adventures of Proposal Day and other Summer Shenanigans here, and view photos of the Proposal here :)

     Summer usually keeps me away from my computer quite a bit. I apologize for my absence and I'm so excited to be blogging again :)

And now, without further ado, THE FOOD :)

     As you may or may not know, one of my all-time favorite summer foods is corn. To me, corn on the cob with butter and salt is pure happiness, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that! However, although we primarily idenitfy corn as a summer staple, here in upstate NY, good quality local corn is available through September, which makes it a lovely Late Summer/Early Autumn treat as well.

   However, there's much more to do with fresh corn than just eating it on the cob. I'm sure corn on the cob must get boring after awhile, though that's never happened to me. It's always nice to change it up though! Enter Fresh Corn Salad :) This recipe has lots going for it, other than being light and fresh and tangy and yummy, it's also a great make-ahead dish, which is nice for large gatherings, so you don't have to stand by the stove or the grill waiting for the corn to be done while there's a party going on:) The only slightly labor-intensive part is removing the corn kernels from the cob, but even that goes fairly quickly once you get the hang of it.

   The way I'm presenting it here, this is more of a method than a recipe. It's based on the Fresh Corn Salad Recipe from *The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook* by Ina Garten, the ingredients are the same, with timing and amount alterations on my part.

Fresh Corn Salad
(original recipe inspiration from Ina Garten)

- 10-12 ears fresh corn on the cob, shucked and cornsilk removed (this can be made with good quality frozen corn in a pinch, but it would not be my first choice)
- One medium red onion or two small red onions, finely chopped
- A handful of fresh basil leaves, torn or finely chopped
- A few tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- A few tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

- Place corn in large pot of boiling water and cook until starchiness is removed (this can take 8-12 minutes, the corn should give slightly when poked with a fork)

- Remove corn from cooking water and submerge in large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and set the color (don't skip this step, otherwise you'll have mushy, overcooked corn)

- Remove corn from ice water. Remove corn kernels from cob. If you have one of those little corn kernel remover things (they look like circles with lots of little nubbly fingers on the inside) then go ahead and use that, however, if you do not (I didn't) this is is the method I would suggest:

- Place a small round bowl bowl upside down inside a larger bowl so that the bottom is showing. Place the corn on top of the little bowl and scrape down the sides of the corn with a sharp knife (watch your fingers!!!) so that the kernels stay in the big bowl and don't go flying everywhere. Once the corn has been removed from the cobs, run your (clean) fingers through the corn to break up any clumps.

- Once all the corn kernels have been removed, combine with red onion, basil, EVOO, vinegar salt and pepper. I really do find that the most efficient way to mix this salad is with my (clean!) hands

- This salad can be serviced chilled or at room temperature, it's great for Barbecues and Potlucks, and I've relied on it for years :)
More to Come!!!
Lynn :)