It was a cool, grey weekend. I had a fridge full of seasonal goodness, some of which was fading fast, but most of which we had no hope of eating it all in time. So, I broke out the canner.
First up, ever since Ryan was here and sang my green bean pickle praises, I felt the urge to make a new batch this year. I don’t make them every year, we don’t eat them much, but we seem to have friends who love them and clear us out of all known inventory. I usually make them with basil from the garden. The other night, out at Leni’s, she gave me a handful of her lemon basil – she grows it, but doesn’t eat it. It has this incredibly wonderful lemon taste – I threw it in with some boiled, buttered potatoes the Friday night and it was out of this world – and I really wanted to see what it would do to some green bean pickles. So, a few jars of the pickles have the lemon basil and the rest are regular basil. I have some of the lemon basil left – I think it will make a fabulous pesto and I’m tossing around the idea of using it with artichokes in my artichoke lemon pesto….I definitely will be growing that next year, as I have lots of good ideas of how to use it…Gail suggested it with a nice sherbet as well.
Next up, were cherries. I love cherries, hands down next to apples my favorite fruit, but unlike apples, they don’t keep well, so there is a small window every year where you can get good cherries. And that window is fast closing. Normally I prefer all my produce be local, but for cherries, I make an exception. They just have to be grown in my hemisphere. As I’m getting tight on freezer space, I wanted to experiment – normally, I buy a big bag of cherries at the grocery store every week, eat a bunch, then chop and stew the rest, and freeze them, and then eat them in my yogurt all winter. I filled a pot with chopped cherries, stewed them up, and then canned them. We’ll see how they turn out. It’s a bigger portion than I usually freeze them in, so I’m thinking there might be a nice cherry cheesecake in our winter future….
And lastly, our peaches. Pat planted a peach tree in our front yard and we tend to battle the squirrels for them. This year, I actually got to pick an almost ripe one and realized we had a tree full of peaches….not quite ripe….and if I didn’t act, it wouldn’t last long. So, I picked every last one and watched gleefully not 20 minutes later some poor squirrel wander around the tree wondering what happened. Served them right. Anyway, having canned a mess of peaches last week, I needed to do something different. A comment a friend left on facebook the other day got me to thinking about making peach butter. All my attempts at jam have been a bomb, so as I read about making a fruit butter, I thought, oh yeah, I can do this. Even better, I found several overnight crockpot recipes that meant I wouldn’t damage any of my pots (I came very close to ruining a very nice and expensive stock pot by having the heat too high on one jam attempt.). I altered the recipe a bit, so I was totally winging it, but, it seems to have turned out okay, in fact, even better than okay.
I opted to go the no-spices route. These are peaches, and I wanted it to taste like peaches and not an apple butter wanna be. (I have no room for wanna-be’s anywhere in my life, but that’s an entirely different conversation.). So, I peeled and chopped all the peaches, filling my crock pot. The recipe I was vaguely following called for 1 cup of sugar per 5 peaches….about 15 peaches into it, I altered it. I think next time I’m going to try for 1 cup to maybe 10 peaches. I followed the suggestion of laying 2 butter knives across the top of the pot and then resting the top on that, to allow moisture to escape and your peaches to cook down. This recipe also suggested water, which I skipped, and I’m glad I did. I left them on low overnight. All the recipes I found said to cook them 6-12 hours, knowing mine were under ripe, I checked them about 4 hours in and realized, they needed much longer, went to bed, and by the time I got up to check them, they had been in there about 14 hours or so. They were cooked down quite a bit, but there was an awful lot of juice. I strained them and threw them in the blender to puree, adding just enough liquid to make that process easy. When it was all said and done, I had a big bowl of peach butter and a about 4 cups of Peach flavored simple syrup left over. Of course I canned all that, because that peach syrup will come in handy. Also, I admit, I hate to waste anything. Pat suggested the syrup would be good on pancakes, but I’m thinking more along the lines of a peach julep – like the mint version, only, using a peach syrup with my bourbon. Might have to try one later, as there was a smidgen of syrup that didn’t get canned….
All told, I put up 2 cases of produce and am feeling quite productive and pleased with myself. Up next, I think I might try watermelon rind pickles….I just happen to have a watermelon sitting there and a case of canning jars I just bought….any recipe suggestions? I have about 6 in my cookbook collection and can’t quite tell which one is best….