Of Course I Can (and so can YOU!)
How’s the weather in your neck of the woods today, friends? Here? It’s muggy. Perhaps my least favorite word (there are others, naturally, but this place is a good, happy place, and we needn’t sully or tarnish it with those nasty words). Let’s think, instead, of what makes muggy weather bearable, dare I say, solicited, encouraged, and welcomed. That thing, dear readers, that balm to the soul when you’d otherwise likely languish from humidity so thick it haunts you, envelops you, seizes you in its grip, that blessed release comes via the stone fruits of summer.
For the past several summers, I have been asked by the fine folks at the Washington State Fruit Commission if I might be willing to be a “Canbassador.” Aside from bragging rights (“Oh, you created the Large Hadron Collider? That’s nice. But are you a Canbassador?”), this position provides a shipment of Washington’s finest stone fruits delivered right to my doorstep. In years past, I’ve received boxes of resplendent cherries, ambrosial nectarines, and, most often, heady, ripe peaches, which is what I was sent this year. In two shipments (as the first had gotten a bit overripe en route), I was generously gifted with lovely, perfectly round, fuzzy, immensely juicy peaches.
The jars you see above are what resulted. Batches of my peach lavender butter and peach chutney (appropriated from my recipe for nectarine chutney) now happily line my pantry shelves, ready to brighten days after the height of stone fruit season has passed. I’ve provided both recipes for you below, so that you, too, may endure the mugginess of summer with a smile.
Do visit the commission’s website, Sweet Preservation. It is absolutely loaded with helpful information, recipes, and even downloable labels. There are still several more weeks of summer left, and plenty of fruit available to preserve. My stovetop has had a pot of something simmering on it nearly every day recently, and will continue to do so for well over another month. Thank you, Sweet Preservation, for tapping me for another year! I wear my Canbassadorship with pride and honor!
PEACH LAVENDER BUTTER (recipe from Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need To Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More, Lark Books, 2010)
Makes: 4-5 half-pints.
You Will Need:
-3 pounds peaches
-1/3 cup water
-2 Tbsp fresh or dried lavender buds
-3 Tbsp bottled lemon juice
-1 ½ Tablespoons lemon zest
-3 cups granulated sugar
-In a large pot of boiling water, place 4-5 half-pint canning jars. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat, and cover with a lid. In a small pot, place 1-2 inches of water and the lids. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat, and cover with a lid.
-Put the lavender buds in a small bowl. Bring the water to a boil; pour it over the buds. Cover, and steep for 15 minutes.
-In a medium-large pot, blanch the peaches for 30-60 seconds. Immediately plunge the into an ice water bath. Once cool enough to handle, peel, pit and chop roughly.
-Strain the lavender buds from the water. Set aside the buds; you’ll add them in later. Combine the lavender water, peaches, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a heavy stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
-Once the peach mixture has cooled slightly, either press it through a food mil, puree in a high-powered blender, or puree using a food processor or immersion blender. Return the puree to the pan, add the sugar and lavender buds, and bring it up to a gentle boil over medium heat. Stir continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, until the butter holds it shape when mounded up on a spoon.
-Place the sterilized jars on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. With the help of a canning funnel, pack peach butter into the jars, reserving 1/2 inch of headspace. Use a nonmetallic spatula to remove any trapped air bubbles, and wipe the rims clean with a damp cloth. Place on the lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight. Using a jar lifter, place the jars in the boiling water bath. Process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary.
PEACH CHUTNEY (from Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More, Lark Crafts, 2010)
Makes: 4 pint jars.
You will need:
-3 pounds peaches (can also use nectarines), peeled, pitted, and chopped
-1 large sweet onion, chopped
-¼ c. fresh cherries, chopped (½ c. dried)
-1 c. raisins
-½ c. golden raisins
-4 garlic cloves, minced
-1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
-2 c. light brown sugar
-3 ½ c. apple cider vinegar
-1 Tbsp. mustard seeds
-1 ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
-1 tsp. ground cinnamon
-Place all ingredients in a heavy large stainless-steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir continually until brown sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Stir frequently to keep from sticking. If additional liquid is necessary, add water in ¼ c. increments.
-While chutney cooks, sterilize mason jars, lids, and screw rings. Fill a canner or large stockpot with water and set over medium-high heat. Bring just to boiling point. Place lids in a small saucepan, fill with water, bring to a boil, turn off heat, remove from stovetop, and set aside.
– Place hot jars on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. With the help of a canning funnel, pack chutney into jars, reserving ½-inch headspace. Use a non-metallic spatula to remove any trapped air bubbles and wipe rims clean with a damp cloth. Place on lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight.
– Using a jar lifter, place jars in canner. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath. Remember to adjust for altitude.