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.

 

Peaches, Summer’s Golden Gems. Or some such.

Ah, peaches.  Nothing means summer quite like the sweet smell of peaches (mingle it with fresh cooked corn on the cob and the smell evokes many a happy summer dinner from my childhood.)  I love the flavor of fresh peaches, really ripe fresh ones – not ones that were picked green and shipped hard, those get mealy and horrible before they get ripe and sweet – but don’t really like the fuzz.  I know, I know, the fuzz is part of what makes a peach a *peach*.  And some people love the fuzz, I know that, too.  But I just don’t like it.  So I peel them.  Luckily really fresh, really ripe peaches peel as easy as bananas.  It is the hard ones that need either blanching and shocking or a very sharp knife to peel without losing half the fruit.  Those same really fresh, really ripe peaches are best eaten as is, maybe adorned with a little splash of cream but certainly not needing baking, saucing, grilling, pickling, marinating, poaching, or otherwise treating.  But, let’s just say, you have too many peaches to eat out of hand, what do you do with them before they get all mushy and become nothing better than compost?  Then comes in the freezing, pickling, jamming, pureeing, preserving.  Try this recipe for quick peach pickles.  They will be good in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Tangy Pickled Peaches

  • 1 lb peaches, peeled and pitted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 10 black peppercorns

Bring all the ingredients except the peaches to a boil on the stove in a stainless steel pot.  Cook for 5 minutes then add the peach slices.  Allow to cook, not boiling so hard as to break the peaches, for another 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly.  Pour into jars, allow to cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Eat the next day.  Yum.  A word about pickling.  If you use fruits and vegetables that aren’t very good quality you will get pickles that aren’t very good quality.  Start with good, fresh produce.  Do not use peaches that are soggy, squishy, moldy, badly bruised, or otherwise not in good shape.  Use those ones to make peach butter (well, not the moldy ones, obviously.)  Recipe to follow another day when I do not have a perfect peach looking me in the eye, ready to eat.  Cheers.