The bounty is almost over friends. Well, the bounty of summer produce, that is. Maybe you go batshit over winter squash and root veggies, what do I know? But the sexy fruits, the reason I can in the first place–the tomatoes, the berries, the cherries, the stone fruits–they’re long gone or are having their last hurrahs. So if you haven’t done so yet, get to your farmer’s markets and use it or lose it! Since I live in the Northwest, I still have a major project with tomatoes planned for the weekend, and I’m gonna need to figure out what to do with a hazillion tons of green tomatoes (I’m taking suggestions!), but after that, it’s time to settle in and watch some teevee! However, let me tell you what I did with stone fruits this year. As you may remember, I’m participating in the Can Jam this year. Every month since January, bloggers around the globe have been canning and living to tell about it. For September, Kate over at Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking chose this month’s item to can, and it was stone fruits. Ya know, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums and the like.
Lucky for me that I headed over to Eastern Washington earlier this summer for tubing and general R and R with Double S, and later we were joined by the awesome grow and resist and her ladyfriend. On our last day out there, we scored boxes of peaches and nectarines. Earlier that same week, I got a box of ‘cots from the Yakima Valley area. What to do with all these bright symbols of summer other than revel in them in the moment, then preserve their awesomeness for the days when all you have at the market is wrinkly parsnips. Sorry parsnips, you’re not exciting like a peach. Obligatory Presidents of the United States of America “Peaches” video!
You had to know that was coming. I had this song in my head when I was canning my peaches. Then I sang this line, “Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man in a factory downtown.” Shudder. No! PS, now you can’t go to the east jesus street fair or roller derby bout in Seattle without seeing these dudes. The Presidents of the United States of America (witty band name…if you’re in middle school!), or at least the lead singer, are Seattleites who have house payments so they gotta do what they gotta do. Ok, how about something more unexpected. How about “Fuck The Pain Away” by Peaches, as set to videos of the Muppets? The teaches of peaches! NSFW, as the kids say, so turn this shit down before you listen to it in your cubicle!
Ok, on that note, let’s talk about how I preserved stone fruits this year! First, on Double S’s suggestion, I made canned peaches in a light syrup. So easy! Here’s what I did.
Canned Peaches In a Light Syrup (Cold Packed)
1. Obtain a quantity of nice ripe peaches that you desire to can. I got a box of Red Haven peaches in Wenatchee, WA. These!
2. Get your jars ready by putting them in the dishwasher or putting them into the boiling canning pot to sterilize them. Prep extras because you won’t know exactly how many you need until you start packing the peach quarters or halves into the jars.
3. Get you lids ready by putting them in a small sauce pan and getting the water to simmer, but not to boil. If you aren’t sure how to can, forchrissakes figure it out! Go here!
4. Prep your peaches. Wash them. Then, remove their skins. It always seems to be a waste to me to remove the skins from fruits and veggies, as that’s where most of the nutritional value is, but I figure it had to be done for canned peaches. You could pop each peach into boiling water to blanch for 30-60 seconds to loosen the peels (if you do it this way, after you blanch them stick them in a bowl of ice water right afterwards to stop the cooking), but with these peaches, I only needed a paring knife and the skin came off easily. I started by cutting the peach in half, then slipping the blade of the paring knife right under the skin and peeling it off. I cut the peaches into quarters (because I might not want to eat half a peach every time I go for these come fall/winter), so I made the cuts then removed the cut pieces from the stone.
5. After your peaches are cut, you might want to splash some lemon juice on them to stop them from browning. I did this. I just occasionally splashed some store bought lemon juice on the slices after I cut them. No big whoop.
6. Make your syrup. Here at the homestead, we like a light syrup. I used about 9 cups of water to about 2 cups of sugar. Bring the syrup to a boil and keep it hot until you’re about to pour it over your peaches.
7. Get your hot jars out of the dishwasher or canning pot. Pack the peach quarters pit side down into the jar. Really pack them in there, without smashing them of course. I packed them right about to the end of the curve of the jar, before the lip. The tighter you pack them, the less they will float. I learned this the hard way when I canned strawberries in a simple syrup, they floated like mofos!
8. Pour the hot syrup over the peaches until all the peaches are covered. Leave 1/2″ headspace.
9. Use a butter knife to go down the inside of each jar to remove any air bubbles. Then wipe each jar lip with a clean towel to remove syrup or peach residue, so that you can get a good seal.
10. Cap each jar with a hot lid, then screw on the ring so it’s just finger tight. Process for 20 minutes.
But, wait…there’s more! That’s not all I did with stone fruits. I also made apricot jam two ways. I made one with regular pectin and I made one with Pomona’s pectin. Both are fine, but I have to say that I like them but definitely do not love them. They both taste far more of lemon than they do of apricot. What gives? I didn’t do as well with the jams I made this year as I would have liked. My strawberry jam was too lemony as well. I’m wondering if the apricots I got just weren’t that good and apricot-y? Next summer I have to find a better apricot and a better recipe. Any suggestions?
Here’s how I made the Pomona’s pectin version:
Apricots. I followed the guidelines that came with Pomona’s pectin. I used 8 cups of mashed apricot. I used a potato masher to mash them.
Sugar. For 8 cups of fruit you need 1 1/2-4 cups of sugar. I used around 2 cups. You could also use honey or fruit juice. See Pomona’s guidelines for more deets.
Lemon juice. For 8 cups fruit, I used 1/2 cup lemon juice. Doesn’t that seem like a lot? Just following directions, folks, nothing to see here!
Pomona’s pectin powder. For 8 cups fruit, you need 6t of pectin powder.
Calcium water (which is enclosed in the Pomona’s box). Again, for 8 cups fruit, you need 8t calcium water.
1. Get your canning pot on the stove and your jars washed or sterilized. Put lids into a small pan and let simmer. Do not boil.
2. Clean, pit, chop and then mash your apricots. Measure the cots AFTER you mash them, as per Pomona.
3. Put fruit into a large pot. Add calcium water and stir well.
4. Measure the sugar you need into a separate bowl. Thoroughly mix the amount of pectin powder you need into the bowl. Set aside.
5. Bring fruit mixture to a boil. Then add the pectin-sugar mix or pectin-honey mix, whatever you used. Stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes while cooking to dissolve the pectin. Return to boil, then remove from heat.
6. Fill your jars and leave 1/4″ headspace at the top. Wipe rims clean.
7. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
This tastes more like a lemony apricot puree than it does a jam. So now I have tried Pomona’s pectin in my strawberry jam and in apricot jam. I don’t think I’ll try it again. With the other recipe, I followed a standard recipe and used boxed powered pectin, plus the called for lemon juice. When I open them, all I smell is lemon juice. I really wanted to taste the apricots, not lemon.
Double S likes them both though! And I like them well enough. The regular jam is good on PB&J’s. Double S made the genius suggestion that the Pomona apricot puree (aka “jam”) could be used as chutney, with meats or on Indian food. I’ll give it a shot like that. It could also be eaten plain, on top of yogurt perhaps. But I don’t have apricot jam that I like that I thought for sure I would end the season with. Help can jammers!
Also, don’t forget to dry some stone fruits too! You can’t lose when you’re drying them! Double S and I scored an old school homemade dehydrator at a church rummage sale this past spring, plus we found good old Ron Popeil’s fruit dehydrator, just like we had growing up, at a garage sale this past summer. You remember Ron Popeil’s fruit dehydrator? We dried the hell out of all stone fruits except plums. We have an awesome plum tree in our front yard, but we didn’t have a single plum this year! Boo hiss!
I hate to sound like a mom in the 80s, but fruit really is nature’s effin’ candy! Also, Double S put it in her granola (aka, the best granola ever! Stay tuned for the recipe!) and the tartness of the ‘cots really makes the granola.
OK, folks, endgame. The bounty is almost over! I still have to finish the cukes in the garden, make some hot sauce with the peppers in the garden, figure out what to do with a million pounds of green tomatoes, and make a boatload more tomato sauce. I picked up 70 pounds of romas and 15 pounds of heirlooms yesterday, and they’re lolling all over the dining room table right now, ripening like they own the place. Yes. I am insane. Stay tuned for what I did (correction: Am going to do) with all those tomatoes. If you dare!