Friday, August 5, 2011

Peach Preserves

One of the added bonuses that came with our house when we bought it two years ago was a mature peach tree. When we closed on the house, we actually didn't know what it was.  We thought apricots or almonds.  As the fruit started getting bigger and we realized what we had, I got very excited.  Peaches are one of my absolute favorite fruits.

Unfortunately, this year's crop is about a third of what it usually is due to leaf curl.  Nevertheless, we still have more peaches than we can eat before they go bad.  So yesterday I made a batch of peach preserves!!  Because the peaches grow in my front yard, it costs me pennies to make a lot of preserves.  But even if I had to buy the peaches, I can often get them for $0.98 per pound, making homemade much more economical than store-bought.

Peach preserves are very simple.  All you need are peaches and sugar.  I do add a few more ingredients, but they can easily be left out with very little difference in the end product.

The first time I made preserves, I removed the skins by dropping the peaches in boiling water for about 15 seconds and then dunking them in cold water.  My stove doesn't heat efficiently and doesn't maintain a boil without the lid on so this was a very involved, long, frustrating process.  The next time I decided to just leave the skins on.  Once the peaches were cooked down, you couldn't even tell the skins were there!  No more peeling peaches for me!

Because peaches differ in sweetness, you will need to adjust the amount of sugar according to your peaches and your preference.  Once the preserves are almost done, take a taste and add more sugar if needed.  Give the sugar a few minutes to cook into the preserves before tasting again.  Remember, start with less--you can always add more, but you can't remove any.

Cooking time will vary depending on your stove, cookware, and preferred thickness.  Mine cooked for over an hour, but I was way distracted by the craziness in my house.  If I was focused in the kitchen, it probably would have taken 45 minutes to an hour.

I like to eat the preserves on toast or mix them into steel-cut oatmeal or yogurt.  They are also good on pancakes, waffles, and French toast--yum!  Next time I make a batch of homemade ice cream, I want to add the preserves to make peach ice cream.

I don't process my preserves, so I keep them refrigerated and use them or give them away immediately.

Peach Preserves
3 lb. diced peaches (about 10 medium peaches from my tree)
3/4 c. sugar (adjust according to peaches and preference)
1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
1 Tbsp. butter (optional)
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice (optional)

Combine all ingredients in large saucepan.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat, uncovered, stirring often.  Once at a full boil, reduce heat to maintain boil without spattering, medium-low to medium.  Continue to cook and stir until desired thickness.  Keep in mind that they will thicken a little more in the refrigerator.  Carefully transfer preserves to canning jars.  Process in canner or store in refrigerator when cooled.  Yield:  about 3 cups.  Total cost:  less than $0.50!!

Starting to cook down.

Keep going!

Almost there.

Just right!

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