~ Perfect Peach Preserves from the Bread Machine ~
'Tis the season for fresh berries and fruit, and I especially love the fresh fruit and berries Joe grows right here in our backyard. That said, besides apples, fruit and berries don't have a particularly long shelf life. During the first three weeks of July, I've frozen our sour pie cherries and blueberries in 2-pound bags -- enough to make 20 cherry pies and 10 blueberry pies during the upcoming year. These two fruits are easy to freeze, and, they freeze really, really well.
Peach freezing is not for me. The end doesn't justify the means.
Peaches can be frozen, but they are quite a bit trickier and messier than cherries and blueberries. They must be peeled, pitted, halved and/or sliced. To keep them from discoloring, they need to be packed in a sugar-based syrup or fruit juice. I did this a few years ago and not only did I not enjoy the lengthy process, I wasn't particularly wowed by the defrosted end result -- not disappointed, just not wowed. They were fine for spooning on ice cream, stirring into yogurt or processing into a smoothie, but they surely did not produce a superb pie or a galette.
If this gal going to take the time to peel, pit and slice 2 bushels of peaches, this gal had better end up with a peachy-keen product at the end.
Peach preserves proved to be the way for me to go. I experimented with a few different recipes until I hit on a flavor combination that had my family asking for preserves every morning. I didn't end up with big final batch of them that first year (because of my experiments), but what I did end up with, I put in containers and froze.
I also discovered another time-saving "good thing": My bread machine has a jam cycle on it. Once the fruit mixture is in the bread pan and placed in the bread machine, all I have to do is turn it on and in about an hour the preserves emerge perfectly cooked. The bread machine controls the temperature and does all of the stirring for me, which frees up my hands to prep another batch.
The bread machine method is particularly convenient for fruit, like peaches, that don't ripen at the same rate of speed, meaning: you can do small batches over a period of a few days. This is also perfect for those of you who only want to make a few cups of preserves.
That said, if you are a purist and make a lot of jellies, jams, preserves, marmalades or chutney and conserve, you might want to consider a maslin pot. This 10 1/2-quart pot is ideal for long, slow methods of food preparation. It has a heavy bottom and wide, sloping sides which reduce the possibility of scorching and promotes evaporation. Its heavy loop handle and helper handle make transporting and transferring a large quantity of hot food easy and safe. This pot is fantastic for jams, soups, stews, chili, etc. (about $190.00).
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons peach brandy
1 teaspoon almond extract
~ Step 1. Prep the peaches as directed and place them in a large mixing bowl. The size you dice your peaches should be determined by how chunky you like your preserves. I dice my peaches into 1/2" pieces.
When the cycle is complete, open the lid and carefully remove the pan from the machine, making sure you are using a pot holder or wearing an oven mitt as this is very hot!
~ Step 4. Using a large slotted ladle or spoon, transfer preserves to 2, 2-cup containers, allowing most of the excess juices to drizzle back into the pan. If you are freezing the preserves, leave 1/2" of headspace in each container, for preserves to expand as they freeze.
~ Step 5. Now that all of the precious fruit has been placed in the two containers, ladle or slowly pour the excess juices into the two containers, again to fill each container to within 1/2" of the top of each container. You will most likely have some excess juice leftover, and, how much is 100% determined by how ripe and how juicy, meaning: how firm or how soft the peaches were. Partially cover the containers with their lids and set aside to cool completely, about 2-3 hours. Cover and refrigerate until preserves are well-chilled before freezing -- overnight is best.
Preserves can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Special Equipment List: cutting board; paring knife; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; bread machine; large slotted ladle or spoon; 2, 2-cup size freezer-safe containers w/tight fitting lids
Cook's Note: What is the difference between jelly, jam, preserves and marmalade? It boils down to the end product. Jelly is made from fruit juice and is gelatinous. Jam is made from pulp, pureed or mashed fruit and is more spreadable than jelly. Preserves are made from diced, chunked or whole fruit and is looser than jam, spoonable rather than spreadable. Marmalade is usually made from citrus fruit, sometimes contains chards of rind and has a consistency somewhere between jelly and jam!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)