Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just Peachy

Puffy clouds, bright blue sky and crisp, clean air means fall is approaching our corner of southwestern New Hampshire.  This is the time of year when the gatherer in me takes over and I can't stop!  I'm in my squirrel mode picking, gathering, foraging, freezing, drying, canning, fermenting, cooking and eating.  Phew, it's no wonder I fall asleep with the sun.

It's been a banner year for peaches at Alyson's Orchard, and a few weeks ago I came home with half a bushel of "seconds".
Who can resist these tree ripened beauties?
Calling these peaches "seconds" is misleading.  I really couldn't see anything wrong with them other than they were perfectly ripe and had to be eaten or put up right away. That's how it is with fresh fruit, use them or lose them.  Since losing them was not an option, we ate the very ripe ones first, out of hand. They were sweet, juicy and elbow dripping good.  When we had our fill, I started cooking with them.  I separated them into what had to be dealt with right away and what would keep for two or three more days.

First to be made every year is Peach Mango Topping.  The recipe is from the Food Network, and I follow it exactly, making multiple batches of just the topping which I freeze.  This is a cheesecake recipe but I don't make the cheesecake, just the topping. The cheesecake part comes later in winter when life slows to a halt.

Peach Mango Topping
Peach Mango Topping
courtesy of the Food Network

2 cups peeled, chopped fresh ripe peaches
1/2 cup mango juice
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Combine 1 cup peaches, mango juice, sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture bubbles and thickens. Cool for 10 minutes, then add the remaining 1 cup peaches.  Let cool, use or freeze.

We like it on waffles, pancake, ice cream, yogurt, pies and, of course, cheesecake.  It's even great all by itself right out of the jar.  I freeze it in one quart jars and when its cold and gray in the middle of January, it is sunshine in a jar.

Next I peel, slice and freeze.  With peaches this ripe there's no need to blanch before peeling. The skin pulls right off.  I freeze them in freezer bags, 4 cups per bag with a squeeze of lemon and a tablespoon of sugar.  This is just the right amount for pie or crisp.

On the day that the peaches would not last a minute longer and I could not peel and slice one more, I turned to the liquor cabinet.  I wrote about making fruit brandy here and still believe that this is the fastest way.  In this case of too many ripe peaches, I quartered the peaches and put them in jars, skin, seed and all, then added vodka to cover.  When I ran out of vodka, I turned to white rum, thinking what the heck, and I made one small pint of brandy.  This time I didn't add any sugar. I find that, because fruits vary so much in sugar content, I prefer to add sugar to taste after decanting, in about three months.  Sometimes no sugar is needed.  Slightly sweet and fruity is how I like it.  Lots of boozy, peachy drink this winter.
Peaches in freezer bags ready for the freezer and in jars steeped in alcohol

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