Peach Butter and Zucchini Pickles

So, all summer you were looking forward to fresh, ripe peaches.  Now there are here!  Alas, the time when they are actually ripe, actually delicious, and actually inexpensive is so short.  How to capture a few extra moments of that sweet, sweet time?  Make peach butter.  Eat it on toast, pancakes, ice cream, spread on chicken, layered between cakes, whipped into heavy cream, in spoonsful straight from the jar…This peach butter will last several weeks in the fridge or can be frozen in airtight containers (check out the freezer-proof jars in the canning section of the store) for up to a year.  Again, a reminder about ingredients:  good ingredients make good final product, bad ingredients make bad final product.  You cannot make good pickles out of saggy, old, pitted, moldy, otherwise no good vegetables.

Brandied Peach Butter

  • 15 large peaches or 20 small
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar

Wash, pit, and cut the peaches into quarters.  You do not need to peel them.  Put the peach pieces, the water, and the brandy in a sauce pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until peaches are very soft, 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the stove then push through a sieve, catching all the liquid and pulp in a bowl, leaving all the skins behind.  Put the pulp and liquid in a heavy bottomed pot and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for between 1 and 2 hours.  The butter is ready when it doesn’t run off the back of a spoon but sort of clumps up instead.  You don’t want to let the pulp get dry nor stick to the bottom of the pot.  If it sticking, turn heat down.  Remove the pot from the heat then cool by placing the pot in a bowl full of ice and stirring until cool.  Put butter in half-pint or jelly jars and close the bands tightly.  Eat all by yourself or give as gifts.

Zucchini Pickles

  • 2 lbs fresh zucchini or yellow squash
  • 1 large or 2 small white or yellow onions
  • 2 Tbs kosher salt
  • water
  • 4 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs mustard seed
  • 2 Tbs prepared brown mustard

Clean and very thinly slice the zucchini.  Peel and very thinly slice the onions.  Put in a large plastic or glass bowl, toss with the salt, cover with water, stir gently then allow to sit for an hour.  Meanwhile, put all the rest of the ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, allow to cool while vegetables are soaking.  When the veggies have soaked and the vinegar brine has cooled pour the water off the veggies.  Pour the brine over the vegetables and mix gently.  Put in a large (gallon) size ziploc style storage bad and remove any excess air or put in a large crock or jar and cover tightly.  Refrigerate.  They will be ready to eat as early as the next day and as long later as 3 weeks.  Keep refrigerated and enjoy.  You can put them in smaller, like half pint or pint jars, and share them out into friends’ fridges – this is a great way to use/get rid of extra zucchini.

 

The Best Ever Savory Zucchini Bread

Here’s a recipe for those who want a bread but not a sweet one (and are still using zucchini…)

Beer, Cheese, and Zucchini Bread

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 bottle of beer
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup packed grated cheese (use something flavorful like smoked provolone or sharp cheddar)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
  • 2 tsp black pepper

Mix together the first 5 ingredients in a bowl.  Make a well in the middle then add in everything else.  Mix well, scraping to make sure all the flour gets mixed in.  Put in a well-greased Bundt pan or two well-greased bread pans.  Bake at 375 30-55 minutes – check with a knife inserted in the middle.  Cool, remove from pans, cool a little more before slicing.  Yum.  You can make the following variations:  add 1/2 cup corn kernels, use pepper jack, add 1 small can chopped green chiles; use parmesan cheese, add 1 tsp dried oregano, and 1 tsp dried basil;  use 1 1/ cups zucchini and 1/2 cup grated tart apple and use Swiss cheese; use half grated zucchini and half grated carrot; stir in 1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds or roasted, chopped walnuts or pecans.

And More of the Green Stuff (Zucchini, that is.)

This dish is for the spicy/savory folks, as the zucchini bread was for the sweet folks.  In our house we like both so have some of each dish on the go right now.  More recipes for zucchini to come…keep reading.

Spicy Zucchini and Eggplant in Tomato Sauce with Olives

  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 large or 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 large white onion (or yellow)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups tomato sauce or puree
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 cups green olives, to taste (you can use pimento-stuffed Spanish olives or any pitted green ones.  I use these http://www.halutza.com/2007/productsgreenpitted.html, which are from the kibbutz where Jim and I met and they are delicious on their own)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbs ground cumin, to taste (I toast and grind my own seeds, the flavor difference is amazing)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (1/4 makes it flavorful, 1/2 makes it spicy, more makes it fiery.  Substitute 1 tsp paprika instead if you don’t like the heat.)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of vinegar – red wine, cider, balsamic, rice

Heat the oil in the bottom of a heavy pot over medium high while you chop the onion.  Put onion in pot and cook slightly (don’t brown) while you chop the eggplant and zucchini into 1″ chunks.  Add veggies to pot and cook for a few minutes, stirring so nothing sticks or burns.  Finely chop the garlic and add to the pot.  Add in the cumin, some black pepper, and cayenne, stir for a minute then add tomato sauce/puree, vinegar, and water.  Stir well and bring to a simmer.  Add in olives and simmer, covered, over lowish heat for at least an hour.  Check and stir every 10 minutes or so.  If it starts to stick, turn down heat.  If it looks like it getting dry, add water.  Taste and season with salt as needed.  Serve hot as a side dish or over rice as a main dish.  Serve cold as a salad or stuffed in a pita.

Best Zucchini Bread

You really know it’s summer when you start getting more zucchini than you can possibly eat plain.  Forget those adorable, skinny little courgettes – these are huge, dachshund size squash with their own zip codes and personality.  Of course you cannot throw them out and can’t pass them up – what do you do with them?  Here is the first of several recipes to come.  This is the perfect way to get more veggies into your diet, use up those green giants, and also have lovely cake/muffins/bread around for guests.  Enjoy!

Best Zucchini Bread Ever

for bread:
3 eggs
1 cup oil or melted butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

for topping:
½ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325. Well grease either two bread pans or a baking dish (or muffin tins or Bundt pan – whatever you like). Beat eggs with a whisk until they are frothy. Beat in oil and sugar. Stir in zucchini and vanilla. Then stir in spices, salt, baking soda and powder, then flour. Pour into pans, sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Bake 45 minutes then check with a knife. It might take as long as 60-65 minutes to bake, depending on pans.
Cool, remove from pans, cut and serve.

Variations:
-you can use grated carrot, apple, yellow squash instead of the zucchini or any combination of the four
-you can add nuts or raisins to the bread
-you can use ½ cup oil and ½ cup applesauce in place of 1 cup oil
-you can use the zest of an orange or lemon in the bread or as part of the topping
-you can substitute lemon or orange juice instead of vanilla
-you can add chopped candied ginger to the bread