"Reclaiming Homemade in a Small Space"

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Peach Preserves....Now with lower sugar!!!!

The summer fruit just keeps coming!  I mentioned in my last blog how Matt picked $81 worth of strawberries.  That was good for you, because I got to blog about strawberry preserves.  Saturday, after getting my van stuck on the side of a muddy hill at Simmons Farm , I ended up picking two bushels of peaches.  Lushious, juicy, New Haven free stone peaches.....Mmmmmmmm.  Don't worry, the nice folks at Simmons helped this low lander get unstuck and back to picking the deliciousness off the trees.  I topped Matt by purchasing $84 dollars of fruit.  So far I have made 11 qts. of canned peaches, 6 1/2 jars of peach salsa, I've canned several pints of peach preserves, made one pie, one tart and one crumble.  Whew!  Are you tired from reading it, because I am really tired from doing it!  But my good friend Jessica has been asking for a new blog:  here it is.
I read several blogs and other websites devoted to preserving "old school" by fermenting or other ways of preserving. I grew up reading the "Little House" books and I'm pretty sure Ma Ingalls didn't go down to the general store and stock up on Sure-Jell.  It got me thinking about how I put up my summer fruit.  I have been canning preserves for years, using pectin and an insane amount of sugar.  The sugar content is almost always MORE than the fruit.  (3 c. of chopped fruit, 5 1/2 c. sugar)  When blueberries were in season, we had a ton of those too...and I didn't have any pectin on hand.  I surfed around on the 'net to find an old school way of putting them up. Both blueberries and peaches are low pectin fruits, so to get them to a good jell without commercial pectin would take another ingredient....time.  I was super pleased with the results of the longer cook time with the blueberries, so I tried the same method to peaches.  Success!  It definitely takes more time than preserving with pectin, but the lower sugar is such a plus.  Commercial jelly is 50 calories per Tablespoon, this homemade stuff is 35 calories per Tablespoon.

The recipe is so, so simple and very versatile.  You can make as little or as much as you like.  For each pound of chopped peaches, use one cup of sugar.  If you don't have a kitchen scale, I used 17 medium to small peaches and it came out to 4 lbs. or 7 cups of diced peaches.  I leaned heavily on this site to come up with my own method.

I prefer to use freestone peaches because of how easily the pit separates from the flesh.  Some sites suggest that clingstone peaches are better for preserving because they tend to be sweeter.  I find it a study in frustration as I cut around the pit.  But that choice is up to you.  Since I pick my peaches right from the tree, I get a very fresh, very sweet/tangy fruit that has proven fabulous for making jam.

Okay, let's get started with the whole process!  Peeling is a snap if you first blanch your peaches in boiling water for about 30 seconds. 

I use a slotted spoon to drop them in.

Blanch for 30 seconds.

All my blanched peaches ready for peeling
I normally can fit 5 to 6 peaches in the pot at once.  Peeling now is a breeze.  If your peach is free of blemishes, the peel should just come off with the rub of your fingers.
I find if there is a blemish like a bruise, the skin will cling to the peach in that spot.  Just use a paring knife to remove it.  Also, a less ripe peach will hold onto its skin harder than a ripe one.

The next step is to chop the fruit finely.  If your fruit is super juicy, make sure you catch all of the juice, that is straight flavor! The very first batch I made, I chopped coarsely and found that the pieces were just too big, the second and third time, I nearly diced them.
Here is a peeled, halved peach.  The pit will come right out.

These peaches will brown if you don't take some precaution to prevent it.  If you have some lemon juice, use 1 T. for that amount of peaches.  I didn't have any lemons on hand, so I crushed up a vitamin C tablet, which is just a concentrated form of asorbic acid- an anti-browning agent.

Pour that right into your chopped peaches and give it a stir.  In a large pot, bring your peaches to a simmer over medium heat. Add sugar.

Now add the most important ingredient to the recipe....time.  Let peaches simmer over low to medium low heat for at least two hours, stirring occasionally for the first hour.  During the second hour, pay closer attention to the pot and stir more often. The sugar tends to sink to the bottom and scorch. This is what it should look like at the end. 
Take a small spoonful, place on a saucer and stick it in the fridge for five minutes. If it looks thick and jam-like, it is ready to can.  If it seems too thin, let it reduce a little more, keeping a close eye on it.
Now you can either freeze it or can it.  Check out my strawberry jam blog for canning instructions.
So delicious, so yummy....  AND, lower in sugar!  Enjoy!