Over the weekend, I indulged in one of my favorite summer hobbies: making preserves. I call it a hobby; Paul has been heard to refer to it as my obsession. Occasionally, when I am filling the last few jars with jam at midnight, and contemplating the additional time required for their hot water processing, I consider that he might be right. I don’t consider stopping.
This weekend, I made brandied peach preserves. The peaches came from Pence Orchards, a farm near Union Gap, WA that has been operated by the Pence family since the late 1800’s. I buy Pence peaches because I want to support family farming, and because they are luscious. The process that I use for making preserves, garnered from Well Preserved, takes three days. It goes something like this:
Day 1: Peel and slice peaches. Do random quality control on peach slices. Yum. Layer peaches and sugar in pot. Place lid on pot; set aside until next day.
Day 2: Juice from peaches has dissolved most sugar. Boil peaches in resulting syrup for 15 minutes. Add lemon juice. Pour mixture into shallow pans to allow for “plumping” of peaches with sugar and evaporation of liquid. Place pans in cat-proof location – oven is good – overnight.
Day 3: Return peach mixture to pot. Bring to boil. Open kitchen window. Boil 15-20 minutes; syrup should now be thickened. Open back door; latch screen door so that cats do not escape. Continue boiling. Begin heating water in canner, and sterilize jars and caps. Why has it not thickened? Continue boiling. Decide syrup is thick enough. Remove preserves from heat. Add brandy. Watch brandy boil on top of no-longer-boiling preserves; think about relative boiling points of liquids. Ladle preserves into jars, screw on caps, process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner; remove self and cold diet Coke from kitchen. Allow to cool.
After cooling, I labeled the jars, and stacked them into a case. And then, to Paul’s delight, I carried that case – and the other three cases of preserves languishing on our kitchen counter from previous weekends – down to the basement… where they joined the case-and-a-half already on the shelves. Yes, as of yesterday, the count of jars filled with yummy goodness from this summer has reached 66.
Here’s what I have so far:
- Cherries in Almond Syrup
Peach Melba Jam (that’s peach and raspberry)
Brandied Apricot Preserves
Brandied Peach Preserves
Peach Preserves with Orange Liqueur
I feel tremendously satisfied, seeing the jars stacked in their cases on the basement shelves. Only the caps and a small amount of the contents are visible, so I can’t tell at a glance what is there. Sometime soon, I will remove the jars from their cases, aligning them in rows on the shelves, so that their colors – pale amber, deep blush, blue-black – are on display. As Paul rarely comes to this corner of the basement, the display is purely for my own pleasure.
And there is more preserving yet to do. I still have some William’s Pride apples from South 47 Farm in cool storage. They’re waiting to become applesauce or, if I’m really inspired, apple butter sometime later this week. I have more of the wonderful cherries from Alberg Farm in our freezer. I haven’t decided yet what to do with them, but they’re frozen, so they can wait. Sometime in September, the first pears will ripen, and I’ll be making gingered pear preserves.
I have about 3 dozen empty jars still in the basement. It will take some work to fill them all, but I think I’m up to it.