Friday, September 1, 2017

Food for Thought

We are deep into the gluttony that is Peach Season in Colorado, where the long awaited Palisades Peaches make their way down here.  We gorge ourselves on them.  Seriously, we eat them fresh, they are in crisps and pies and ice cream, served up sliced as a side to most meals; they are breakfast.  Then, just as we can't possible eat another peach (let alone look at one), the season passes.  Hopefully I've put up peaches in some form to enjoy when we once again crave a peach, but alas the season is months away. . .this usually occurs when we are deep in the throws of winter.

This year I put up 10 pints of peach jam and five quarts of halved peaches.  I've got ice cream in the freezer, but that won't last, and neither will the peach sauce that goes with it - just mashed peaches and then reduced - no sugar needed.  I do, however, still have one 10 pound box coming, and we've already gone through over 42 pounds.

It wasn't completely about peaches.  I had six-plus pounds of tomatoes from our bushes to deal with.  And that's just the Roma's, the Grape Tomatoes we eat straight or have been in salads - I'm thinking of skewering them with fresh mozzarella later this week.  I've thought about canning diced tomatoes or just putting up marinara, so I looked for, and found, both a diced recipe and this Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes recipe.  I opted to try the marinara first.  Super easy and simple to chop (no peeling necessary) and toss it all in the slow cooker, food mill it and toss it back in the slow cooker.  It did start to separate as I was ladling it into jars.  That is either, 1) the nature of homemade sauce, or 2) needing to be cooked down longer.  We are at altitude and I didn't make much of an adjustment in the second cook time, which I will do next time - letting it cook down longer.  The taste was good.  Almost as good as my go-to sauce - tomato-y, good balance of herbs.  My six pounds yielded two quarts, which are now in the freezer.

So yeah, Peaches.  I needed something that used up a fair amount of fresh peaches, but was easy to pull together as Summer has returned - blah!  Fresh Peach Crisp works well for both, even if I have to use the oven.  I used more than the called for four peaches - I had a 9x13, which is bigger than what was used in the original recipe, so I think I used six.  I also didn't peel them, and like to slice them a bit thicker so they hold up better in baking.  The topping was the best - it was crispy on top, thanks to the CUP AND A HALF of butter.  The oats stayed chewy, and didn't get slimy - even on day two.  Crisp has got to be one of the best ways to enjoy fresh, ripe peaches.

I like to alternate my canning recipes each year.  So last year I made Peach Butter.  The year prior I put up halves and made jam.  This year, it was time for more jam.  I made two small-batch recipes - 10 half pints in total.  A Peach Freezer Jam, which is just a basic jam, but good, and this Peach and Vanilla Bean Freezer Jam.  It was equally as easy, smelled great with that vanilla bean in there, but is thin.  The blogger warns ahead of time, that this is not a thick-spreading jam, it is a bit thicker than a glaze and is more pour-able than spreadable - just information to know ahead of time so when your jam isn't setting up, you know it's not supposed to.  I can't wait to empty the fridge of the current jam selections and give this one a try on fresh scones, or buttermilk biscuits.

I've done a few variations on canning peaches.  I've tried a medium syrup, sliced, heat peeled, no-heat peeling, halves, light syrup, raw pack.  My best results have come from light syrup, raw pack, halved, no-heat peeling.  While it is certainly much easier to peel them after blanching, I think the added heat on an already tender peach, makes the outside softer.  Then you process them and, while still good, they aren't as firm as I've found no-heat peeled peaches to be.  I used this guide to Canning Peaches, mostly for the syrup ratios, but there were some good tips, too; it is now my go-to reminder.  I use the light syrup, as our peaches are always plenty sweet.  I use a light touch and a hand apple peeler (I've also tried a pairing knife.) Does it take longer?  Yes, and it's no less messy, but I like the final product better.

It's been screaming hot, so anything on the stove I try to avoid, but this Italian Wonderpot sounded fast on a back-to-school night, so I went for it.  You toss everything in the pot, boil and serve.  How much easier can it get?  My 8.y.o. cooked this meal.  I'm not a fan of fettuccine noodles.  I think they get mushy on the outside while the inside is al dente.  I tend to sub in linguine noodles instead.  I didn't do that this time, but will next time and adjust/keep an eye on my cook time.  I'll also add more garlic, but that's because I like garlic.  The only other note is taste before serving, chances are it will need more salt.  I'd also add some fresh parsley to the top just to brighten it up.  It was a satisfying, quick meal.  It'll be great when there's a chill in the air.

Believe it or not there were still peaches, so I made Peach Ice Cream.  It has a creamy vanilla base (I used 2% milk instead of whole.)  I liked that the peaches were roasted, not that they needed to be sweeter, but it enhanced them.  I need to dice them smaller, if not puree some of them and dice the remainder.  It was good with vanilla graham crackers and peach sauce over top.

Well, if you've got peaches, you're covered this week.

Happy Friday,


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