The weather has turned hot. In many places that means different things, but in Georgia it means it is Peach Time.
Georgia is called the Peach State. It seems that everything that has to do with Georgia has peaches in it. We enjoy Peaches from June til late August. Peaches in neighboring states are available a little longer. This means we can eat and cook with Peaches all summer long. With a season that long there are so many things to make and so many ways to eat what we make. I can remember when we got together in a big family feast, it always meant that you would eat two things, fried chicken and afterwards home-made peach ice cream. As a youngster I would get to set on the ice cream churn as someone would turn the crank. The taste of peach ice cream is something I hope I never forget. You can buy it in stores, but the taste is nowhere near the flavor of ice cream from a churn. I will tell you a way to make ice cream at home with a taste real close to those memories. I will also cover many ways to use peaches in many ways. So I am going to take your on a trip thru Georgia peach country. We will make several of our best items using our best Georgia peaches. You can use peaches from other states, just don’t tell anyone.
Peach Preserves is as good a place to start as any. So let’s get started. You always want to start with fresh peaches. They should be firm and smell fresh. Smell the peaches, if they smell peachy and not like a package go ahead and use them. Peach preserves needs peaches that have no skin on them. You don’t have to peel them, just drop the peaches in a pot of boiling water for about a minute or so; then remove the peaches and drop them in an ice water bath. This should loosen the skin so that it can be peeled off. If all else fails, you can peel them, but be careful not to cut into the peach too much. Next step is to remove the peach from the pit. Cling peaches are a little more trouble than freestone. Most of the early season fruit are of the cling variety (the meat clings to the pit = cling). If you have a peach that pulls away from the pit when cut, then you have a freestone peach (the meat pulls away = freestone). Either way you want to make even slices about the same size. Thin slices are by far the best to work with, but not too thin. You still want a nice size to work with. Cling peaches are a little harder to do, but it can be done. Just work carefully.
Put 8 cups sliced peaches and 7 cups sugar in a large bowl mix and let set overnight in you fridge. If you want to use the same proportions of peaches to sugar, smaller batches are fine. Do not try to do batches bigger. Next day cook over medium heat while stirring til the peaches turn translucent. If the juice thickens before the peaches are ready, add 1/4 cup boiling water. If the juice is still not thick and your peaches are ready, gently remove your peaches and continue cooking the juice. After it gets thick add the peaches back in. When you are finished cooking place pot in cold water – stir occasionally until the foam goes down. When almost all the foam is gone skim to remove the rest.
I have to stop and tell you a little story about skimming your jams and jellies. We used to give tours and demonstrations in canning at our store. We had all sorts of groups coming in and Mary Lynn and I would show them a little about what we did. We had groups from schools and groups from churches. We had home school classes and just about every other way you could think of come to us for a little knowledge and a little bit of fun and entertainment. We both never really thought of ourselves as entertainers, but that is sort of what we were. We had a group of third graders from a whole county come to our store. It took three days for all the kids to visit. The groups that we enjoyed the most were the church groups. Most of them were our age and a little older. They knew what we were doing because that was the way it was done in their homes growing up. We were talking about making peach jam and talking about the foam. Mary Lynn said the you skim the top to get the foam. A lady raised her hand and said that when she was growing up, she never ate jelly or jam out of the good jars, all she ever ad was the foam. So you don’t throw the foam away. Put in another jar or a dish. It is still whatever you cooked, it just isn’t the pretty part. It still tastes good.
Getting back to the job at hand, after the foam is gone ladle into prepared jars and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. The next day you can admire what you have done. You have made real Georgia Peach Preserves.
Peach Jam is the next stop on our trip thru Georgia. Jam is easier than preserves. Peel the peaches as above. Use crushed peaches to make jam. That means you don’t have to be careful and get the same size slices. You can just cut the peach off the pit any way you want.
Combine 8 cups crushed peaches with 1 cup water in a heavy-duty pot. Cook over medium to low heat for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook till the mixture thickens, stirring the whole time to prevent sticking. Skim off any foam if necessary. Ladle into prepared jars. Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Remove and let sit over night. In the morning you have beautiful peach jam. A favorite in just about any home.
Something we did at our store that many people never do was make Peach Jelly. It is a wonderful light taste of peaches for things you don’t want a piece of peach on. You can make PBJ’s with jelly. It is what the J means in the phrase. Many other times you might want jam.
Peach Jelly is made with juice. that you get from sugar and peaches. When you were making preserves you mixed slices and sugar. To make jelly drain the juice off the peach slices and save the slices for other recipes or eat them with cottage cheese or something. You can also make juice another way. Take all the peach peelings, add 3 or 4 peach pits and 2 or 3 whole peaches that you have cut up. Add 4 cups water and boil for about 10 minutes. You will need 3 1/2 cups juice, 5 cups sugar, 1 package of pectin and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. If you use the sugared peach juice, then drop the 5 cups of sugar to 3 cups.
Combine juice, lemon juice and pectin. Bring to full boil for 1 minute. Add sugar and bring back to full rolling boil for 1 minute. Always keep stirring to prevent your jelly from sticking. Remove from heat and let sit for a couple of minutes. Skim the top, then ladle into prepared jelly jars. Clean rim of jars with damp paper towel and place sterile domes and rings on. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath. Let sit over night, check for unsealed jars. They need to be reprocessed.
Not very hard was it. You would be surprised how many people have never had Peach jelly. The only thing they have had has been jam or preserves.
Peach Syrup is made using juice, sugar and light corn syrup. Peach syrup is fantastic over hot pancakes, awesome over ice cream in a sundae, killer in a coke to make peach coke (vs cherry syrup make Cherry coke). You will be surprised how many ways you can think of to use peach syrup. How about peach syrup in iced tea to make peach tea. It is easier than all the above recipes.
Take 6 cups peach juice (from fresh peaches or bottled. If bottled make sure it is only peach juice with nothing else added). 3 cups sugar and 3 cups light corn syrup. Combine all ingredients and simmer slowly til completely mixed. Ladle into prepared jars or bottles. Boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Now you have peach syrup. Use this syrup when relatives are visiting. Make pancakes for breakfast and serve your peach syrup. It will surprise them that you could do something like this.
The next blog will also give you some more of the different things we made with peaches.
In our set up for shows we had an entire section of our booth devoted just to peaches. Mary Lynn and I were really proud to decorate with signs and things we got from the state. We even had artificial peaches hanging around. It was great. We were proud to say that our number one customer was the State of Georgia. The Department of Agriculture bought many things from us to give to people who visited the state. One time they ordered 50 gift baskets from us. Mary Lynn went to one of the basket wholesalers and ordered baskets made in the shape of the state. She put in peach colored straw and put in jars of many things made from Georgia produce. We always said on the label that it was Georgia Peach Jam or Georgia Blueberry Syrup or Georgia Apple Butter. We used only Georgia products in the making. The state used those gift baskets to give to foreign visitors that came to look over the state with thoughts of building something here. I can’t tell you how proud we were to be chosen to do something like that. I wish we had one of the state baskets to show you but they are all gone. I do have one of the smaller baskets that Mary Lynn made I can show you.
You never know what a simple gift of home-made goodness will bring. I will give you some of the ideas Mary Lynn and I, along with ideas of our customers, of how to use the above products. Things that you can use proudly from your canned goods.
Part 2 will show you ways to use your peach products. Then in the next blog, we will make some interesting combinations with other fruit and things.
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